WVU Needs Win In Worst Way
MORGANTOWN, W.Va — Let’s face it.
Bob Huggins’ West Virginia University basketball team needs a win when they take the court at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night at Kansas State.
They don’t need it for the rankings. They don’t need it for the standings. They don’t need it for their chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament in March, although their chances in all those areas get even worse than they are now after an 8-6 start that includes an 0-2 mark in Big 12 play.
And they need it for you, the fans, who have been injected with enthusiasm from the choice of Neal Brown as football coach but who have seen little to excite them in an underachieving basketball team.
“We need win bad for lot of reasons,” Huggins admitted, although he suddenly sounds as if there is some optimism in the progress his team is starting to make even without Sagaba Konate.
“We played the hardest we played all year the last couple of games,” Huggins noted. “We were right there. We just didn’t finish the way we needed to.”
The losses were to No. 11 Texas Tech in the home conference opener, 62-59, and then on the road to a talented Texas team, 61-54.
These games came down to the final minutes and could have been secured by the Mountaineers.
“This league is all about a shot here and there, a free throw here and there, a call here and there. If you get one of those you’ve got a great chance to win. If you don’t, you’ve got a great chance to lose.”
“You would hope we have enough experience guys — Esa Ahmad, Beetle Bolden, Lamont West, Wesley Harris — to be able for someone to make a play. Lately, Derek Culver (a freshman who is emerging as the biggest force on the team) is the one making plays down the stretch.”
It obviously still eats at Huggins that he lost the Texas Tech game by going a dismal 18 of 32 from the free throw line and committing 22 turnovers.
“We had done a great of lowering our turnovers until that game,” Huggins said. “But 22 turnovers and 18 of 32 from the free throw line… you don’t have a chance.”
This, of course, is a homecoming, of sorts, for Huggins, who had coached at Kansas State for one year when the WVU job came open, giving him an opportunity to return to his roots at his alma mater.
And there are many similarities for these two teams, both K-State and WVU being picked among the league leaders in the preseason poll and both without their best player.
Rhe trials and tribulations of Sagaba Konate and his effort to come back from off-season knee surgery, being out right now with no return in sight, have been well-documented.
And Kansas State’s Dean Wade was selected as the Big 12’s Preseason Player of the Year but he suffered a tendon injury in his left foot that has him sidelined for two months. It is the same foot he broke last March that kept him out of the Elite Eight, but the injuries are said not to be related.
WVU will be a little bit deeper at guard for the game as Brandon Knapper, suspended for the last game for “behavior unbecoming a WVU player” is on the trip and expected to be available.