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Bock: West Virginia Desiring Positive Closure Could Cost Them

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Seniors Dimon Carrigan and Gabe Osabuohien hug at the games end. (WVSN photo by Kelsie LeRose)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The season should be over.

West Virginia lost to No. 1-seed Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday afternoon, eliminating the Mountaineers from any hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament. But after the loss, WVU head coach Bob Huggins said that his team still wants to play.

“We’ve got more games to play,” Huggins said. “We’ll get home, have them rest for a day or so and we’ll get back at it and get ready to bring home a trophy. That’s what we do. That’s what we set our goals for every year. It’s not going to be the one we wanted, but it’s going to be a trophy worth bringing home.”

Huggins went on to say that his players still want to play.

“I think the question is if they want to play and I asked them that and they want to play,” Huggins said. “I enjoy coaching them, I enjoy representing West Virginia University and the great state of West Virginia.”

But what’s the point? Obviously, it’s a sense of pride and the team continues to try to salvage their season. What’s to gain from playing in the NIT or the CBI Tournament if you’re not going to play the guys that will be on the team next year. We know how this is going to go: the team will accept a bid into a lower tournament and then proceed to give a majority of the minutes to the five fifth-year seniors that won’t be on the team next year. Look, I’m all for honoring Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, Gabe Osabuohien and the grad transfers. They have been a big part of West Virginia’s success the previous two seasons. I just have a bad feeling that the young guys like Isaiah Cottrell, Kobe Johnson, Seth Wilson and Jamel King won’t really get any chance to shine since there are so many seniors.

It was a different feeling in 2019 because freshmen Derek Culver, Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Jordan McCabe were already receiving big-time minutes. That team was also excited for Oscar Tshiebwe, Miles “Deuce” McBride and Jalen Bridges to come to WVU that summer. There’s not the same buzz floating around with this year’s class that West Virginia has put together.

This program just needs to throw in the towel and move on to the rebuilding phase. They have a great chance to win the offseason by gaining multiple transfer players from the portal.

Luckily, the team is getting a head start looking at the transfer portal. WVU assistant coach Larry Harrison told Tony Caridi and Jay Jacobs on the radio that they aren’t wasting any time to get on the road on Friday to recruit.

“We’ve got our eyes focused on a few guys already, so we’ll hit the road [on Friday] with that,” Harrison said after the Kansas loss. “This year with the transfer portal, we won’t have to wait until June to see who’s coming back.”

That’s a good sign. The WVU coaching staff will be extremely busy over the next few months, looking to add possibly three to four more players via the transfer portal. This brings me to my next point.

In this new world of college basketball, some guys just want to go and find a new home. It happens everywhere now. Not even a week after the Mountaineers lost to Syracuse in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, Matthews and McCabe hit the portal. If, and I say if, there are guys on this year’s team that plan on leaving, they’ll most likely wait it out until after WVU is finally done with whatever postseason tournament they play in. Huggins and Harrison have expressed their displeasure about waiting on guys to decide on personal decisions during the offseason, which can take months to find out. Playing in another tournament could delay the process for a Mountaineer who wants to enter his name into the transfer portal or the NBA draft.

I think even Huggins is a little concerned about next season as the Hall of Fame finalist has brought up the transfer portal almost weekly for the past couple of months. Huggins has said that he wished his coaching staff took a different approach in pursuing Malik Curry, Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan. Huggins is appreciative of those guys and has had their back since they’ve arrived on campus, but he wants guys that can stay for multiple years. It’s a shame because Curry, Paulicap and Carrigan all were processing very well towards the end of the season, all having a great impact and winning games for WVU.

Huggins wants to take the Mark Adams approach in the transfer portal and get his type of players who will be on the team for multiple years.

Just look at Texas Tech, when Chris Beard abandoned their team, Adams was just left with Terrence Shannon Jr., Kevin McCullar and Marcus Santos-Silva. Adams went into the portal and picked up mid-major players that turned his team into a national contender just like that. The Red Raiders added Davion Warren, Adonis Arms, Kevin Obanor and Bryson Williams, who made the All-Big 12 First Team. Adams is a fantastic coach, but if Texas Tech can do it, why can’t Huggins do it at WVU?

I’m sure the coaching staff will be able to multi-task well, they’re some of the best in the business to do it. Unless you’re a player, I don’t see the point in competing in any lower postseason tournament. It’s okay to move on, sometimes that’s just what’s best.

Buckle up, West Virginia. This will be Huggins’ biggest offseason since arriving in Morgantown in 2007. We are almost there.

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Ethan Bock is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in journalism at WVU. He currently is an intern with the Final Fourcast podcast. Ethan has covered WVU football and men’s basketball for the last year. He is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

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