Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Point guard Juwan Staten said West Virginia is “kind of underrated” as it enters Big 12 play.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After being picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll, West Virginia enters conference play with a 118 RPI that ranks eighth in the league.

That might seem like symmetry for a team mired in mediocrity, but point guard Juwan Staten pitched the Mountaineers (8-5) as a dark horse in the highest-rated RPI league.

“I think we’re a team that’s kind of underrated,” said Staten, emerging as a do-everything threat in his junior season. “We have a dangerous team this year—a lot of 3-point threats—and we’re still getting better.”

Averaging 16.3 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds, Staten is making a case to be the Big 12’s second-best point guard behind future lottery pick Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State. Quite a leap from the player who crossed coach Bob Huggins last season and was benched for parts of two games.

Staten and Huggins seem to be better synchronized these days, the product of offseason bonding in which the player combed through game video and showed other signs of recommitting himself. That has allowed Staten to flourish in the way Huggins expected when he accepted the transfer from Dayton.

“He’s probably as fast and as athletic as anybody at that position,” Huggins said. “I thought that a year ago, but it took a little while for him to understand what we wanted do.

“(This year) he has really bought in. He really tries to understand what you want done.”

Staten’s scoring has more than doubled and his shooting has climbed from 37 to 49 percent, but it’s his tenacious rebounding that has been a boon to a team struggling on the boards. When opposing 3-point shooters prepare to launch, Staten is spying angles and hawking caroms that kick long off the rim.

“I’m just using my quickness and athleticism to get to loose balls,” he said. “I try to get every long rebound that bounces out because it becomes a foot race and I feel like most of the time I’m the quickest player on the court. Then I try to steal any one that I can, especially on the free-throw line.”

West Virginia opens Big 12 play with a two-game swing through the Lone Star State, visiting TCU (9-3) on Saturday at 4 p.m. before facing Texas Tech (8-5) on Monday night. Those games afford the Mountaineers opportunities for road wins that figure to be crucial to any postseason aspirations.

“If we’re going to realize what these guys want to realize, we’re going to have to win a bunch of games,” said Huggins.

Though WVU is 0-5 against teams ranked 164th and higher in the RPI—and 8-0 against teams ranked below 200—Staten said he foresees the Mountaineers surprising league opponents.

“I don’t think teams recognize how good we can be,” he said, “and hopefully we’ll show everybody in the Big 12.”

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  • madhatter

    again, probably too early for must wins, but these two coming up imo , are just that,,,If we can't beat the bottom feeders both home and away, we are in the worst shape in years and years..
    I still wonder if Beilein is fed up with michigan yet,,, i hold out hope he would reconsider and come back,,, almost anthing is better than this slow death that huggins is putting us through.
    It's just so sad how this program has fallen since beilein recruits left. Huggins has proven he can't recruit and has a hard time puting forth the effort to coach these guys up..He just throws them under the bus after each loss, and shoulders absolutely no blame.

    • shawn

      This team has no seniors on it. They are the youngest team we've had in a while. This team is getting better and they are very close to being a very good b-ball team but they have to play complete games until they get a year under their belt. I mean everybody expects Devin Williams to pull down 15 boards a game but thats hard to do when you're really the only big man on the team who can play. If Holton was playing, this team would be 4 wins better. And i'm sorry that Harris and Henderson dont put up 30 a game but thats not going to happen every game. These kids have to play within the system and themselves and then they'll be good.

      When we made a run to the final four, Butler was the most talented player on the team. The rest were torn down and rebuilt by Huggins and he made them into players. Flowers couldnt even shoot the ball until Huggs worked with him. That team worked together and formed a bond. This team is doing the same thing and you'll see much improvement as the year goes on.

      • Maineiac

        I have to agree. The haters are out in full force. the only thing this team needs to learn how to do is finish the game. They did that tonight. They finished the game. They have lost some close games to really good teams.

        last year WVU was getting blown out. This year they are not. They are going to surprise some people. After watching games this season this is a much improved team.

        Next year you will see some great things I think you will see some great things at the end of this season.

      • madhatter

        exactly , is being the mother of huggins cause some heartaches at times?
        how many times have we been told that we are this close to being good.

        we won't win 15 games this yr... does this make you feel like we are progressing?

        • shawn

          I can honestly say you make no sense at all

          • madhatter

            an it's becoming easier and easier to realize , you just don't get it.

  • Brian

    This whole..... "we're better than our record" routine (in BOTH football and men's bball) the last couple YEARS is getting a little tiresome - from the WVU coaches AND players! The laughable part is WVU might won one (or both) of the next two league games and everybody is going act like we're going dancing this year! Hardly.

    You ARE who your record says you ARE!!

    Please, prove me wrong and win 10 or 11 league games and I'll shut up.
    Otherwise - show me something and quit TALKING about how......"close we are".

    • madhatter

      i think we all should realize that DH had lost the team by the kansas and iowa state games.. it showed.... what a pathetic performance in both games,,, this coach doesn't know how to prepare a team for a game, plain and simple

      • Maineiac

        I will agree DH is no head coach. WVU should have hired Jimbo Fisher when they had the chance.

    • GoEers

      How about you just shut up anyway

    • Dave

      Yes Sir Brian