Winning At K-State Part Of Larger WVU Goals
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins isn’t looking at Kansas State’s 7-9 overall record, or the fact that the Wildcats are 0-4 in Big 12 Conference play. Instead, he sees some of the same characteristics of most Bruce Weber-coached teams.
“They do a great job guarding. They run great offense. They are fundamentally very sound, and are hard to score on. They don’t give you anything easy,” the veteran coach said as the Mountaineers travel to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on the Wildcats, who have lost six of their last seven games.
“They are playing a bunch of young guys,” Huggins noted of K-State, which dropped four of those six games by an average of just four points. “They lost a lot [from last year]. They lost two of the best players who played there maybe ever.”
Those standouts, Barry Brown and Dean Wade, helped the Cats to a 25-9 record a year ago, as well as a share of the regular season Big 12 championship with a 14-4 record. Along with departing senior Kamau Stokes, they accounted for 4,585 points — the most by an trio in K-State history.
Still, Huggins sees enough talent on the K-State roster to keep his team’s attention.
“(Xavier) Sneed is a really good player. (Cartier) Diarra and (Makol) Mawien are really good players.”
Sneed (6-5, 215 lbs.) leads the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game, and also heads the squad in minutes played, 3-pointers made and rebounds. Diarra (6-4, 185 lbs.) is the only other double-figure scorer at 12.6 per contest, while Mawien (6-9, 230 lbs.) adds 7.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest. Mawien and Sneed are seniors, while Diarra is a redshirt junior. Three regulars (DaJuan Gordon, Antonio Gordon and Montavious Murphy) are in the rotation are true freshmen, averaging more than 20 minutes per game.
It doesn’t matter, though, where opponents are in the standings. What matters is piling up wins, and that’s the message Huggins is sharing with his troops.
“If you want to win the league like our guys say they do and get a high seed in the tournaments, you have to beat who is in front of you,” explained Huggins. “We’ve had plenty of time to get over the TCU game. It’s a different style that we will be facing.”
|WVU (14-2/3-1) vs. K-State (7-9/0-4)||Date: Sat Jan 18||Time: 2:00 PM ET|
|Venue: Bramlage Coliseum||Loc: Manhattan, KS||Series: WVU 10-7|
|NET: WVU-8 KSU-101||TV: ESPNU||Last: KSU 65-51 (2019)|
|Twitter: @BlueGoldNews||Facebook: BlueGoldNews||Web: BlueGoldNews.com|
Huggins continues to share the narrative of his team as one of a unit, rather than one of individual concerns. He used sophomore guard Jordan McCabe, who has struggled with his shooting this year, as an example.
“Jordan is fine,” stated WVU’s head coach. “He is continuing to get better. He works at it as hard as anybody on our team does. He understands that’s what it takes to win, and he wants to win as much as anything else.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a confidence problem,” he said expanding his comments to include those players who fought through last year’s difficult times. “These guys played together a year ago, and knew what was coming. They beat the national runners-up in the Big 12 tournament (Texas Tech). They’ve been together all summer. They understand what each other can do. They want it to be about team. They get along, they hang out together, they are in the gym together If there’s one guy in there, there’s generally three or four. They like basketball and they want to be good.”
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The Wildcats are allowing fewer than 62 points per game, part of a league and nationwide trend of diminished scoring.
“I think it has become more of a halfcourt league,” Huggins analyzed. “It’s harder to score five-on-five than it is when you have numbers, and you get numbers in transition. People aren’t extending defenses as much as they did in the past. I don’t see people as consistent making threes as they were a year ago.”
Huggins also pointed out that a team’s offensive pace of play affects overall scoring numbers if not a team’s offensive efficiency.
“In a lot of instances, your offense makes the defense better. It can shorten the game so much. If you shorten the shot clock and go deep into it on every possession, your opponent isn’t going to score as many points because they get less possessions.”
While Huggins acknowledges the impact of analytics on the game, and uses them to some extent, he has a different angle on how to use information.
“We probably don’t use [analytics] as much as most people do, but to a degree we use it. But I’d rather see clips of how they score. I want to see what they ran, how they got open and how they scored. How did they create numbers? How did they get scores? I want to see what they did. To me that’s much more valuable than handing me a stack of papers.”
Left unsaid was the fact that this allows Huggins to craft the defensive tactics that will give his team the best chance to win the game.
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The WVU game is the middle one of a three-game stretch for the Wildcats against Top 25 teams. K-State lost to Texas Tech on Tuesday, and travels to Kansas next Tuesday after hosting the Mountaineers on Saturday.
K-State is 35-58 all-time against ranked Big 12 teams at Bramlage Coliseum.
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For the fall semester, WVU posted a 3.21 GPA with 10 players above a 3.0, including Chase Harler’s 4.0.
WVU current coaching staff is in its eighth season at WVU. Among Power Five schools, only Michigan State (nine) has had more years of coaching staff continuity.
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Huggins on his team’s shooting, which took a one-game uptick against TCU (57.7%) but is still below what he hopes to see:
“For the most part we have been able to ham and egg it pretty good. One of these days we are all going to make shots at the same time and then we are going to be really dangerous.”