WVU has chance to get back on track
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 07:02
A couple of weeks ago, the future looked pretty bleak for the West Virginia men’s basketball team.
The Mountaineers were in the middle of a downward spiral in which they would go on to lose five of six games, and consequently, their run of five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances – and possibly even a trip to the NIT – looked to be in serious jeopardy.
But since nearly pulling off a major upset against then-No. 2 Kansas, WVU has slowly started to right the ship and make the prospect a little more realistic that it could do what a lot of people thought it wouldn’t be able to do.
Granted, the Mountaineers are winning a lot of games that they should be winning, as taking down Texas twice and picking up wins against Big 12 Conference cellar dwellers TCU and Texas Tech, but wins are wins.
"When you go through years like this, you learn the old cliche that you take them one at a time," said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. "There were other times where we thought we had turned the corner a little bit, but then we kind of reverted back.
"I think we’ve got a chance. I really do."
And WVU has a chance to keep this momentum going in its next few games. The Mountaineers will travel to take on TCU before returning to the Coliseum for a couple more winnable games against Baylor and Texas Tech.
Then they’ll travel to try to pick up their first marquee victory of conference play against No. 11 Kansas State to avenge a one-point loss at home earlier.
Three wins heading into that game to give West Virginia a five-game winning streak before going to Manhattan, Kan., would be just what it needs to give it the confidence it hasn’t had up to this point in the season.
The Mountaineers have a chance to do that, too. And that’s something you wouldn’t have been able to say a couple of weeks ago.
They’ve been able to win a close game and prove that they’re able to fight through adversity to keep on track to win – like they did Monday.
So, what’s been the difference?
"It’s just the type of team West Virginia’s always been, that gritty team that’ll grind it out," said freshman guard Eron Harris.
The biggest thing Harris and the Mountaineers have in their corner is Huggins, who has been able to preach to them the right kind of attitude to have when succeeding and how to keep that going.
It’s finally something that has started to sink in for the players.
"He’s not going to get too happy for that win; he’s going to stay critical on us," Harris said. "I never thought about it, but it is definitely rubbing off on me. I’m just trying to stay level so that every game means the same thing to me.
"It’s good to be hype for big games, but if you’re going to be hype you need to be hype for every game."
That’s the right kind of attitude for them to have heading into the final stretch of the season when every game means more than the last. That’s especially true for a West Virginia team that will be fighting for its life every time it steps on the court.
But they know they can get there. They know they have the potential to do what it takes and knock off a few teams and prove a lot of people wrong who counted them out early in the season.
The only question now is whether they can actually do it.
"We know can win those games. We’ve lost games by single possessions, and we know we could’ve won those," Harris said.
"That’s the direction we’re moving in. We get to play these teams again. We get a chance to beat them. If we beat those guys like we’re supposed to beat them, then there should be no reason in anybody’s mind that we shouldn’t be in the tournament."