WVU Keeps It Together in a Trying Season So FarPosted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2011
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent.
Everyone remembers that West Virginia was in the Final Four last April, but if one team has fallen completely off the radar this season, it is definitely the Mountaineers. It is quite perplexing that a Bob Huggins-coached team with some talent hasn’t received a great deal of national coverage. When considering the number of incidents involving this team since the start of the season, it’s even more shocking that this Mountaineer squad hasn’t received a major amount of national headlines.
Heading into the season, West Virginia was ranked by most publications to finish in the top half of the Big East. The Mountaineers boasted a deep recruiting class with its four members thought to have the potential for an early impact. Much to the chagrin of Coach Huggins, though, that class has hit so many snags that the current roster carries zero active freshmen. The first domino to fall was when it became known that center David Nyarsuk would be unable to qualify academically as a student at West Virginia. The next one fell at the beginning of the fall semester when guard Darrious Curry had been diagnosed with a previously undetected heart condition and it would be in his best interest to stop playing basketball. Then Huggins suspended guard Noah Cottrill indefinitely for behavior that the head coach termed “unbecoming of a Mountaineer.” Cottrill eventually withdrew from the school on January 14 and is currently evaluating transfer options. The final freshman domino fell on January 12 when forward Kevin Noreen underwent season-ending knee surgery.
Unfortunately, the four members of what was supposed to be a solid freshmen class are not the only players within the program that have had their status put into question. This past Sunday, sophomore forward Dan Jennings inexplicably left the team bench during the second half of WVU’s win over South Florida. Following the game, Huggins called the absence “unexcused and inexcusable.” The veteran head coach added that Jennings was “never to be seen again, I guess.” While Jennings has yet to be officially dismissed from the team, one can only conclude, unless he apologizes and is forgiven by his coaches and fellow teammates, that his future with the team is in serious question. In another troubling turn of events, Huggins issued a press release on Monday evening announcing the indefinite suspension of senior guard Casey Mitchell. This is a significant hit for the Mountaineers, as Mitchell is the team’s leading scorer this season at 16.6 PPG. The question also emerges of whether he will be permanently dismissed from the program due to the fact that this is his second indefinite suspension this season — he had a similar suspension in October but was reinstated before he missed any games.
While the situations involving Curry and Noreen were health-related, those involving Nyarsuk, Cottrill, Jennings, and Mitchell were either academic or behavior-based. It is widely known that Bob Huggins has a history of taking on players who have had previous academic and/or conduct problems, so when a coach has takes such risks, it is only logical to assume that some will work out while others will not. Huggins knows this when he is recruiting such players, but he could never have predicted that so many would accumulate in one season. Amazingly enough, though, West Virginia has still managed to put together a solid 2010-11 campaign. The Mountaineers are 13-5 overall and 4-2 in Big East play. They have won games at Georgetown and at home versus Purdue. While their upcoming schedule looks treacherous, even with all this weirdness this year, you would count out Huggins only at your own peril, since we know he still has the drive and the capability to overcome the aforementioned circumstances that he and his program have had to deal with, and once again lead his alma mater back to the NCAA Tournament — and probably go farther than you’d think.