Questions surround WVU in 2012-13
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 02:10
As West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins answered questions during his preseason press conference at the Mountaineers’ new basketball practice facility, the veteran head coach reflected on his team’s struggles a year ago.
"It was a long year," Huggins said. "They’re more ready to go than what they were a year ago, and we’ve got guys that know what they’re doing.
"With a year under their belts, they’re so much better."
A disappointing early exit from last year’s NCAA tournament left the team ready to bounce back and make another deep run in March.
Even through losing Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this year’s group.
There’s a good bit of talent on the roster, and the Mountaineers will obviously be one of the best-coached teams in the country once again. There are a lot of questions that will need to be answered before we’ll be a able to see if this team can really make a run in the Big 12 Conference come tournament time.
Will the transfers can step up?
Obviously, Jones and Bryant will be two difficult losses to replace. The two seniors provided more than 50 percent of the team’s points a season ago. But luckily for the Mountaineers, there will be three transfers with plenty of talent and experience who will be able to step in and contribute right away.
Especially with junior Aaric Murray and sophomore Juwan Staten, West Virginia should have players capable of filling some of the void left by last year’s seniors.
Murray, a 6-foot-10 center who came to WVU from La Salle, is perhaps the best NBA prospect to wear a Mountaineer uniform since Huggins took over.
A big man who is active on the defensive end and can score inside and in the midrange game offensively, Murray should be a nice complement in the front court for senior Deniz Kilicli.
Although he hasn’t played a game in a West Virginia uniform yet, Staten’s teammates named the sophomore a captain for this season.
But that is something that comes with the territory of being point guard, and Staten will be looked at as a floor general and a coach on the floor.
He tied for the lead in assists in the Atlantic 10 Conference as a freshman at Dayton and the former top-100 prospect might be the most talented true point guard to play for West Virginia since Darris Nichols.
If those players, as well as senior forward Matt Humphrey, who transferred in from Boston College, can step up and make plays, it will go a long way toward helping this team make its way to its sixth-straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Can the sophomores can make progress in their second year?
With a nucleus consisting of mostly freshmen a season ago, there were bound to be times when the Mountaineers struggled. When you have that many players who haven’t played at a high level of college basketball before, there are going to be some growing pains – and West Virginia experienced those quite a bit.
But if the five sophomores can make some strides in their development in the second season with the team, there’s a chance things can get better.
The three sophomores to keep an eye on the most are Jabarie Hinds, Keaton Miles and Gary Browne. Hinds and Browne were inconsistent a year ago on both ends of the floor, while Miles was never really able to build enough confidence to make any big contributions, even though he started 30 games.
After a summer of working out and playing in summer leagues, this group looks poised to make the leap and become team leaders.
Even with the questions that surround this team heading into the season, there is one constant that makes the future look bright for WVU this season.
Bob Huggins doesn’t coach bad teams.
Even last season, with a young team that was more inconsistent than any he’s had at West Virginia, Huggins was able to find a way to navigate the Mountaineers into the NCAA tournament with fewer than 20 wins.
Not many coaches are better at doing more with less than Huggins has been able to do at times throughout his career. And it looks like this year he could have a chance at one of the better teams he’s had at WVU.
But only if things come together.