Is West Virginia This Bad, Or Is Its 1-3 Record a Product of Scheduling?Posted by dnspewak on November 27th, 2012
West Virginia is not the worst team in the Big 12. Far from it. And yet there’s no team in the league right now with a worse record than the Mountaineers, who have lost three of their first four games and own a sole victory against Marist in the Old Spice Classic’s consolation bracket (hey, that’s more than Vanderbilt can brag about). If not for that one win, it’d have been fair to call the tournament in Orlando a Thanksgiving disaster for Bob Huggins‘ team, especially on the heels of that embarrassing season-opening loss to Gonzaga by, what was it, 700 points?
With three transfers playing major minutes and a remade roster after losing Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant, nobody expected November and December to be easy for West Virginia. You’ll also hardly see a power-conference team play a schedule like this in the opening weeks of the season. It’s no secret how good Gonzaga or Davidson are, and Oklahoma’s no slouch this season either. Still, we expected to see Huggins’ team embody a completely different mentality. He openly admitted after bowing out early in last season’s NCAA Tournament that he had never coached such a poor defensive team. That was after a blowout loss to those same Zags — and sure enough, seven months later, it happened again in the 2012-13 season opener. Different team, but more of the same issues (GU hit 52% from the floor including nine threes).
Truthfully, though, the issue right now lies on the offensive end. Huggins’ team has defended a bit better after that Gonzaga loss, but it simply cannot score with enough consistency. Sounds simple, right? It’s not. Nobody’s averaging double figures in scoring at this early point of the season. Juwan Staten has played well in spurts and flashed his elite speed and athleticism at times in the Davidson game, but he’s turning the ball over more often (2.3 per game) than he dishes out assists (1.5 per game). Jabarie Hinds has been OK. Aaric Murray, the supposed star of the team after transferring over from La Salle, has struggled to stay out of foul trouble. Boston College transfer Matt Humphrey played three minutes in the team’s latest loss to Oklahoma, fan favorite Deniz Kilicli turned the ball over six times against Davidson, and the team as a whole hasn’t shot better than 40 percent from the field in any of its three losses. Free throw shooting (65.6%) has been abysmal, too. Freshman Terry Henderson has been a bit of a bright spot and looks like he’ll grow into a fine perimeter shooter, but there isn’t enough consistency on the offensive end right now.
This team will get better defensively. Staten is a pest in the backcourt, Murray’s a very good shot-blocker and you know these guys will respond to Huggins’ intensity over the course of the next couple of months. He’ll just need to pray that his team learns how to score, which will take a more consistent effort from Murray, better point guard play and a couple of shot-makers to emerge on the perimeter. Otherwise, this losing skid won’t simply be a product of the schedule anymore — it’ll be much deeper than that.