What’s wrong with West Virginia basketball?
As you read the headline, you’re probably thinking “everything” as your answer.
If you thought that, you’ve nailed it.
Gone are the days of the thrill of watching an exciting “Press Virginia” team headlined by Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles that guided the Mountaineers to three consecutive Big 12 Championship appearances and three Sweet Sixteen’s in four years.
It was easy to start believing that Huggins was building the beginning of an incredible run that had no end in near sight.
With all of what’s happened in the last four years and all the talent that was returning, plus the hype surrounding freshman Jordan McCabe and Derek Culver, it was hard to believe that this team would struggle this badly and for this long with no signs of improvement. Yet, here we are.
Of course the absence of big man Sagaba Konate and guard Beetle Bolden has not helped the situation, but they are not the solution. This team had the same struggles with them as they do without them and that’s something people forget about. Now, would the Mountaineers have three road losses combining over 90 points in league play with them on the court? Probably not, but I’m not so sure it would have been a whole lot better. Bolden, when healthy, has been forced to play the point which is not his natural position. With the lack of a true point guard, Huggins has no option but to play him there. As for Sags, well, when he did play, he didn’t seem like the same feared player from last year. He was worried about working on things that the NBA wanted to see from him instead of doing what he does best.
If you ask anyone in the college basketball industry how to describe a typical Bob Huggins team, the three words that will often get brought up are: toughness, effort and physicality. None of which exist with this year’s squad. At times, you will see flashes of it from certain players, but it is not a team effort and it is no where near consistent enough to win games in this league.
My favorite quote from Coach Huggins regarding this team was something he said a few weeks ago that screams the truth.
“We’ve had guys who led us, guys who when somebody starts bitching in the locker room, they tell them shut the hell up before I slap you. Your upperclassmen are suppose to lead. We’re getting killed by Missouri last year and JC and Dax come in the huddle and just said we’re not going to lose. I’m not going to let us lose, and they didn’t.”
You can look up and down this roster all you want, but you’re going to have a hell of a time finding a guy that is afraid to lose. Carter and Miles along with the guys from past teams could not stand to lose. They feared it. This team fears hard work. Many times, it seems that once things start going south in a game, they just go through the motions and play with their tail between their legs.
You can blame coaching all you want, but you can’t coach effort and you can’t coach passion. I understand he recruited these guys, but let’s not turn on this staff who has built this program up to one of the most respected programs in the country. Huggins has only one losing season during his tenure at West Virginia and the last time that happened he stumbled upon Jevon Carter and embarked on an incredible four year run. He said he was going to fix it and I believe he will do exactly that.
Will everyone on the current roster be here for the start of the 2019-20 season? My guess is probably not. Guys that will improve, show some promise and have good work ethic will return. Those who don’t will venture off to new opportunities. It’s not going to be a quick fix and is likely not going to happen this year, but just know that the fix is coming. I mean, let’s be honest, can it get much worse than this?