Asti: Bob Huggins Knows ‘We Want to Bully People’ Mentality Could Create Problems
“We want to bully people.” That’s what West Virginia basketball guard Erik Stevenson said about his team’s mentality following their win over Buffalo.
This is a mentality that has been common with great Bob Huggins coached teams of the past, but this thinking is one the Basketball Hall of Famer doesn’t love as much right now. Huggins offered some pushback when asked about what Stevenson said.
“With that, I think comes a lot of fouls as well. We gotta find somewhere in between. Somewhere where we’re still physical but we’re physical in the right way according to what the rules say,” said Huggins, referring to needing this group to be smart with how they empty their desire to be physical. Now Huggins also did add a jab at the officiating as why his team can’t fully bully people the way they may want to.
“There’s going to be contact. I think when some young officials come in and want to call every bump, we could be here for three days because that’s going to happen. That’s part of it. You can’t do it to gain an advantage,” explained Huggins as why being physical and imposing your will is a good thing, but can’t be your key strategy in order to win.
Huggins said what he said and did not put his stamp of approval on the comments from WVU’s team leader because he knows playing smart has been an issue at times this season and he’s well aware of how getting in foul trouble early can kill a team. Mixing an average of 14 turnovers per game, which Huggins has brought up as too many, and then blending that with collecting fouls is a recipe for disaster and for the season to unravel, something some skeptical fans are waiting to happen since it has in the past, granted these players are not guilty of those collapses.
WVU has both benefited from an opposing key player fouling out of a game, like when Nelly Cummings was booted from the Backyard Brawl with seven minutes left, but also saw fouls from Mountaineers be a problem at Xavier. Trying to keep the fouls under control is also something that will be absolutely necessary in conference play. Huggins knows WVU is not going to get too many benefit of the doubt calls, especially when on the road against national darling Kansas, a recent champion in Baylor, a really good Texas team and an overall gauntlet of a conference schedule in the Big 12.
This is something Huggins will no doubt want to hammer home to his team, a team that has gelled well together despite still not having many games as a unit. The Transfer Portal allowed WVU to quickly retool after one of the worst seasons in recent memory in 2021, certainly for Huggins, who endured multiple seven-game losing streaks for the firs time in a long time last year, but the downside to building a constantly building a new team every offseason is the question about if they will find chemistry on the floor. It seems they have. It also appears like this team has one distinct quality with teams that have been successful under Huggins – they are unselfish and are truly bought in and willing to whatever it takes to win.
So if the man they look up to and the man who has a track record of having success, often with castoff players, kinda like the 2022-2023 Mountaineers, says they must pull back the “we want to bully people” mentality, they should listen. This team often gives off a special vibe. A vibe that could carry it through for a deep run, and certainly a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, a place West Virginia basketball should always expect to be. However, the mental lapses, which have happened even in the midst of big wins, and potential foul trouble, could derail the season and create a “what if?” story about the season that will annoy everyone involved.
Asti: This West Virginia Basketball Team Feels Different, Showing Signs of High Ceiling
The sky could be the limit for this WVU team that has found its leader in Stevenson, has Tre Mitchell getting back to form, is realizing the true value of Emmitt Matthews, is experiencing the shooting ability of Jimmy Bell, the size edge Mohamed Wague provides and is even holding out hope that another bucket getter in transfer Jose Perez could still join them when the games will matter the most. With all of that said, it’s evident they are their own worst enemy too and will likely only be able to blame themselves if they do not get to where they want to be.