MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – At this time last year, the West Virginia basketball team was 9-13, on a three-game losing streak. It was the middle of what would end up being one of the worst seasons of coach Bob Huggins’s career.
The 2018-19 team finished with a 15-21 record, the most losses a Huggins-led team has ever had. The Mountaineers finished 4-14 in conference and 0-10 on the road. Several players left the program both throughout the season and after its conclusion.
This season has been completely different. on Feb. 2nd the Mountaineers are ranked No. 12 and won secured their 17th victory Saturday afternoon by defeating the Kansas State Wildcats. It was the second time West Virginia and Kansas State have played this season. K-State head coach Bruce Weber said the progress WVU’s program has made from last season to this season is apparent.
“A credit to coach Huggins and his team and his staff to get their culture back after last year,” Weber said. “I know it was a struggle for him, it wasn’t a fun season for him. He made some tough decisions. They got their culture back, they play their butts off. (They were) probably not like (Jevon) Carter’s teams and that group, but in their own way, they have a good unit.”
Huggins said the culture change this season was very deliberate and he made a point of letting the guys know about it.
“I’m not going to go through (last season) again,” Huggins said. “If we’ve got guys that are disruptive, they’re gone, we’re getting rid of them. We’re not going to do that again. I think they got the message.”
It’s been so far so good for the Mountaineers this season. At 17-4, there has been a lot of excitement surrounding the team, both locally and on a national level. WVU is consistently tabbed as a top-5 seed for the NCAA tournament and every home weekend game for the rest of the season has been sold out for weeks.
The excitement around the program this year, playing in a sold-out WVU Coliseum and facing off with a tough-nosed Mountaineers team reminded him of college basketball of yesteryears.
“I also appreciate the West Virginia fans,” Weber said. “Just at the hotel, (there were) people everywhere with great pride, and (there was a) sellout today. It was really cool. It’s kind of old-time college basketball, I thought. I really appreciate that, hats off to them.”
West Virginia has not looked like a modern basketball team this season. While a majority of teams have adopted smaller, spread out, perimeter-shooting offensive identities, the Mountaineers have won this season by going big and physical and beating teams with suffocating defense and dominant rebounding.
The Mountaineers will stay at home and host Iowa State for a 7 p.m. game on Wednesday then hit the road for a game at Oklahoma next Saturday.