West Virginia basketball teams kick off 2011-12 season with Mountaineer Madness
Published: Thursday, October 13, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 13, 2011 23:10
When the West Virginia men's basketball team makes the floor during tonight's Mountaineer Madness, it will be a much different-looking team than fans saw a year ago.
With just four returning players from last year's Mountaineer team who made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament, head coach Bob Huggins' team comes into the season with an inexperienced, freshman-heavy team.
Huggins knows with such a young team, he'll have to be a little more patient than he's been in years past.
"It is going to be a challenge. I've talked about this a bunch, but different people learn different ways," Huggins said. "It's hard to tell that when you go watch guys in the AAU circle. They're all going to learn, it's just a matter of how quickly."
The unquestioned leaders of this year's WVU team will be its two seniors: forward Kevin Jones and guard Truck Bryant.
Junior forward Deniz Kilicli is the only Mountaineer to receive significant playing time last season.
In the offseason, Huggins has started to see Jones begin to adjust more into the leadership role for this team, much like Da'Sean Butler and Joe Alexander did prior to their final seasons with the Mountaineers.
"He is more comfortable," Huggins said. "Everybody wanted him to be Da'Sean, but he wasn't Da'Sean (last year). Everybody has their own things that they do well, and they have to stay away from the things they don't do well."
Aside from being a much younger team than it has been in the past, West Virginia also boasts a more athletic roster that Huggins believes could play more of a fast-paced style, as opposed to the half-court offense the Mountaineers have played the last few seasons.
But, the veteran head coach said it could take some time before they're able to begin playing to their full potential.
"I don't know how much we can teach. It depends how quickly they can pick things up," he said. "I haven't seen any good half-court stuff on either end of the floor. I think we went five minutes without getting a shot. It's hard to win like that."
Mountaineer fans will also get their first look at head coach Mike Carey and the West Virginia women's basketball team.
Like the men's team, the WVU women will also be looking to replace a large senior class that was vital in solidifying the team as one of the Big East Conference's best.
West Virginia will return just one starter from last year's team made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Baylor.
"I like having everyone back – it's never a bad thing. But we're going to surprise some people this year," Carey said.
Carey, who is entering his 11th season with WVU, said just because he has a younger team this season, expectations won't be changing. He still thinks his team can be one of the best in the conference.
"We can't lower expectations because we lost some players. We have to expect the new players to step up; it's their time now," he said. "I hope they are hungry. We want everyone in our program to be hungry."
The Mountaineer Madness festivities will begin tonight at 5 p.m., when fans can go to the Mountaineer Madness Gear Sale until 7:30 p.m. in the Shell Building adjacent from the Coliseum.
Doors at the Coliseum will open at 6:30 p.m. and the madness will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Admission is free and open to the public.
Huggins and Carey will each address the crowd, and the players for the upcoming season will be introduced, along with raising of the NCAA Tournament banners for each team.
The men's team will compete in a slam-dunk contest and scrimmage. The event will conclude with a one-hour autograph session, with all players and coaches available on the court.