Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Eron Harris made 1-of-13 from 3-point range in West Virginia’s two home losses to Oklahoma State and Texas.

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s basketball journey to this point—spikes in optimism abated by moments of stinging reality—leaves the team right on pace with preseason projections.

Unfortunately for Mountaineers fans, those projections weren’t flattering.

Picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll, West Virginia (10-7, 2-2) certainly seems incapable of contending for a league title (OK, so we figured that much), and it now faces harsh odds of even cracking the league’s upper half.

Road wins at Texas Tech and TCU that restoked fans’ appetite at the outset of conference play were quickly doused by home losses to Oklahoma State and Texas. Barring a dramatic turn over the 15 guaranteed games remaining, WVU is destined to sit out postseason play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002 and 2003.

Monday’s 80-69 loss to the Longhorns—the first time WVU has been completely overpowered this season—came at the hands of an opponent that was not only younger but also picked beneath West Virginia in the preseason. Watching Texas rip rebounds, locate open shots and control the action, the truth became obvious: Rick Barnes has jerked UT out of its one-year malaise, while Bob Huggins needs more time to fix what ails his program.

It also became obvious that West Virginia needed more time to recover from that gut-punch loss to Oklahoma State, which slipped away in the final 16 seconds. The demeanors of various Mountaineers after that loss seemed particularly deflated—almost like a team that had been eliminated from an NCAA tourney game. It felt like a line-in-the-sand moment, and when Markel Brown’s 3-pointer effectively erased the line, WVU didn’t fully reboot for Texas.

That was a matter of psyche, but Huggins’ roster also has constraints of skill and physicality:

— Low-post scoring, which figured to be a weakness from the moment Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton encountered eligibility issues, has been even spottier than expected. WVUs only dump-it-inside threat, Devin Williams, has struggled to score against the taller defenders from Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Purdue, TCU and Texas, making only 15-of-48 shots. As Huggins informed a Texas beat writer after Williams went 1-for-7 Monday night: “What are we 10-7? We’ve suffered inside for 17 games.”

— Lanky freshman Brandon Watkins has provided interior defense, but despite possessing a nice midrange jumper, he hasn’t made much of a dent offensively. In 10 games against top-200 RPI teams, he has six baskets.

— Remi Dibo has attempted only 12 free throws all season, an indicator he isn’t comfortable—or capable?— of slashing to the basket like he did on the junior college level. The 6-7 forward’s subsistence on 3-point shooting, where admittedly he’s knocking down a respectable 40 percent, makes it easier for defenses to account for him.

— Freshman Nathan Adrian is Dibo to the extreme, having attempted only three free throws total, despite playing more than 17 minutes per game. The Morgantown product will spend the offseason trying to expand his game.

— Without Macon and Holton, WVU hoped to mask its rebounding deficiencies with taller wings like Adrian and Dibo, but they have combined for only six boards per game in 36 minutes. Neither has much slack been picked up by Kevin Noreen, who in 16 minutes of action has averaged more fouls (2.6) than boards (2.5). Overall, West Virginia’s plus-2.1 rebounding margin ranks 65th out of 83 power-conference teams. “We sure as hell don’t rebound it the way we rebounded it in the past, so we have to make shots,” Huggins said.

— Gary Browne, who showed early dividends of offseason work on his shooting, is in a 4-of-21 slump since the Marshall game.

— Eron Harris made only 1-of-13 from 3-point range during WVU’s two-game homestand and 6-of-22 overall. He’s averaging 17.4 points per game but produced a total of 16 points in those two losses. While you certainly expect more from the Big 12′s third-leading scorer, it’s clear Harris isn’t among the league’s most feared offensive players … at least not yet. Right now he’s a decent player still acclimating to the attention given him by defenses, not a player capable of carrying a team.

“I’m wondering what the answer is,” Harris said after the Texas defeat. “What’s the answer for me individually? What’s the answer for us? How can I get myself going? I’m tired of losing, there are a lot of things inside of me right now.

“But we’re not going to give up. We’ve got a long way to go,” Harris contended. “If somebody believes this is the end of the world right now, they’re wrong.”

As Harris seeks to regain his mojo, it’s crucial teammates keep focus on developmental tasks—namely freshmen learning the offense and the Macon/Holton duo satisfying eligibility requirements for next season. If somebody believes this team is capable of any greater heights during the interim, they’re likely wrong, too.

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Comments

  • mad hatter

    well, it's not fixed and another yr won't change much,, maybe if we beat someone of quality next yr , we might make the nit
    so very disappointed in huggins,,,,,a band named after him . "" asleep at the wheel" certainly describes what he's been like since his new contract,,
    tells me he may or used to have the ability to coach but now,well, he's got the contract so it's time to enjoy that man cave at home, and laugh at all eer fans and tax payers of wv for anteing up the money for his contract.
    we will easily see, we are over matched in the big 12, huggin's inability to recruit players who can qualify has put us in a bad situation,, but this is all on huggins , all.

  • wvrefugee

    The last time I got a 3 million dollar raise performance was attached to it.........oh wait, I've never had a $3 million dollar raise!!! Think about it!

  • squad

    i don't know..i guess if you look at the schedule it will be tough but last night tech beat Baylor, so one or two team will get hot and stave off the others.. what is a problem and demoralizing is that we should see improvement but the b12 is very bulky this year with lots of good, not great teams. same as with football we need a team psychologist or someone to keep these guys on an even keel. when I saw Oklahoma lose at k state they looked like they were thinking "we'll get you back" whereas we seem to dwell on the trauma of the loss too much here. i've seen pitino teams get fried sometimes by 20+ but they come back and win the games they are supposed to. this up and down stuff like the texas b ball and Maryland football games show we need someone working on the heads of the players. we hear about miss and shot and hang your head..really?? I like guys who get pissed when things don't go right. the right mind of a competitor NEVER hangs he head. this type of stuff bugs me when I hear coaches talk of that behavior. does belicheck or brady hang their heads when they lose? no... they go after the refs in the tunnel...
    call it man up, call it whatever..i don't want no hanging heads in the blue and gold no matter if they lose by 100.

    • WVU 1964

      WVU was one basket of winning the Oklahoma state game... Had enough shots to win the Texas game... Just missed the shots that's why we lost the Texas game too many shots didn't go in the basket... Bottom line... We are good enough just wasn't our time yet .Why ? Who knows?

  • pghmountaineer

    It's amazing to me how a lot of folks in here have come to accept "moral victories" and "wait till next year" as the new standard for our two major athletic programs. Man, I wish I had a boss like that who would allow me to produce the results that these two progams have shown over the past two years and still be employed.
    Especially at the salaries being paid to our staffs.
    By virtue of the fact that O. Luck has basically disappeared, this downward spiral will go on for a long time. The longer it goes on, the harder it becomes to turn it around.

    • Aaron

      I don't think anyone who understands sports in general and recruiting in particular accept subpar performances.

      In football, last yeas top 44 players (2 deep on both sides of the ball) were primarily younger players with the upper classmen coming from the JUCO ranks. Everyone wants to clean DH’s clock but the truth is, he’s getting some players in here. If they manage to land the 4 star RB out of NC, that will give them 3 or 4 (depending on who you listen to) 4 star recruits. That’s not been the case in the past as generally WV lands 1 or 2 4-star recruits.

      It’s a bit different in basketball. Huggins has been here long enough that the program shouldn’t be in this condition but it is what it is. He recruited kids that couldn’t handle his unwavering demands and style of play. He lost one whole recruiting class and parts of every other one since he’s been here. He’s responsible for that but with the current recruits; it looks as if he’s getting players who will stick around.

      One thing is certain though. If Holden and Macon are here next year, with what returns, they will be a VERY good basketball team.

      • mad hatter

        what in the world makes you think holton and macon are any good... this is a huggin's copout , trying to make us believe that they would have made the difference,,, who knows"?,,,we're guessing that huggins is correct and this yr and last shows us he's lost

        • Aaron

          Macon was the 56th best player his senior year and dominated AAU summer games.

          Besides the fact that I've seen Holton play, I know he averaged 10 points at Rhode Island as a true freshman and was mentioned as a key to WVU by almost every Big 12 coach.

          Do you believe they lack the ability to play in the Big 12?

          • mad hatter

            my guess is that he never plays one minute for wvu,,he'll probably be in jail by that time

      • William

        I NEVER WANT TO SEE HOLTON WEAR A WVU JERSEY.
        I WOULD NEVER PAY A DIME TO GO SEE HOLTON PLAY, HE SHOULD NEVER WEAR A WVU UNIFORM
        HOLTON - STAY AWAY!

        • Alum

          Finish the rest of your statement, that you would never pay to see WVU play in the first place.

        • Aaron

          I'm sure you will be missed next year when he plays.

        • Jon

          William, you are an absolute embarrassment to this fan base. Please go support some other team that fits your lack of intelligence better. i.e. Pitt, Marshall, Cincinnati, anyone but us.

        • Nobama!!!

          Don't you mean your mom would never give you the dime to spend?

  • 5toldU1s

    One thing that needs to be said is that the students and fans have so far done a GREAT job coming out to home games. It's obviously been a rocky season on the court and it would have been easy to jump off. Also the team itself has never laid down. We're all disappointed but as bad as it is to lose, at least we haven't given up, like we did way too many times last year, and unfortunately like the football team did. I knowing must seem like grasping at straws, but without effort, we're totally lost.

  • Rich

    Even though they were picked below us in the pre-season poll Texas is playing really well (overacheiving) and will probably be a NCAA bubble team if not an at-large qualifier. I really felt we could beat them at home and have a chance to steal one in Austin but that's not going to happen. I believe development is important and I think we have some good players in place but let's face facts: it has always been and will always be about WINS. This team has to figure out a way to finish games and win more than we lose the rest of the season otherwise we will have two consecutive losing seasons. With a Hall of Fame coach(despite his shortcomings) that's unacceptable.

  • Tom

    Allan,

    I am always impressed with your assessments, both basketball and football.

  • tw eagle

    sounds like my evaluation , but sugar coated - and a bit more incisive . . . Mountaineers look to lose at least 19 games . . . has a Huggins team lost 20 games , YET ?

  • ShinnstonGuy

    On a separate note, does anyone know how to get in touch with Oliver? We need to redesign our basketball court paint scheme. For some reason, some Dodo decided to paint "West Virginia" on each end of the court, but they painted it so far from the out-of-bounds line that you never see it. Why? Because cameramen, photographers, and the occasional cheerleader sit on top of the name. Several of our conference mates paint their school name in bigger letters across the entire end of the floor, which looks nice on TV. The current scheme has been around for a while and I propose we change it, and make "West Virginia" more prominent to the world. Anyone with influence in the Athletics Department please give them this idea.

    • shawn

      Hey you know that big flying WV in the middle of the court? Thats our trademark and thats what we're known for all around the country. If you dont know that then you obviously dont know WVU sports.

      • ShinnstonGuy

        I am talking about the baseline under the basket. I am not talking about the center court.

    • Ballsisrael

      Now that is the most observant and right on post yet !!

  • ShinnstonGuy

    Allan,

    I would add that Gary Browne is Huggins' "2014 Punching Bag." Viewers should be aware that each year Huggins picks someone to tear apart every chance he gets, and this year it is Browne. The other day the poor boy looked like someone had shot his dog after Huggins benched him.

    • dan

      he should be benched and im hoping he will be the next one to leave .we are so much worst with him on the floor

    • shawn

      He isn't playing to his potential and thats why Huggs stayed on Staten last year. He's not in their face because he hates them, he loves this kids and wants them to succeed.

    • Aaron

      You could see a remarkable drop when Staten departed and Brown came in. If you look at the players, it's hard to find scholarships for next year. This one should be freed up as Brown would make a great D-II player.

  • William

    The problems is not the players, it is the coach THAT IS THE PROBLEM!
    "Sweatsuit" Huggins has done a terrible job and should be FIRED!

    • dan

      you can say it all you want but it is never ever going to happen sorry about youre luck

    • Jon

      William, You are an absolute moron!!!!!!!!!
      Go support Pitt

    • Capt Obvious

      If he keeps gaining weight at this rate he won't be able to fit thru the Coliseum doors in a year or two and he'll have to resign.....wishful thinking.

    • Alum

      You remind me of the crew years ago that called Sonny Moran, Sonny Moron. In your case, the moron shoe fits so wear it.

  • Brian

    I got "roasted" on this very comment board a week or so ago for saying essentially EXACTLY what Allen is saying now - I just don't have his degree of homerism and I didn't feel the need to explain it in some much detail. If I'm not mistaken my point was overshadowed by the fact I mistakenly said the Texas game was at Texas - boy, that made a HUGE difference in the outcome huh?

    My point, however, for folks that AREN'T twelve, was that I knew IF we won one or two or those idiotic early conference games people wont think we are a team on "the verge"; "one player away"; "a shot here or there"......blah, blah, blah.
    Is there anybody that honestly thinks we are going to win more than one of the next four games? Really?
    What about the four after that? Maybe one more game - two?
    After all the hoopla over Huggs return to WVU and some early success, we are suppossed to be happy with only a winning record every 2-3 years with maybe a dance team every 3 years?!?!? I
    I'm 50+; and yes, I remember ALL the Catlett years!!
    But wasn't the great Bobby Huggins suppossed to change those kind of good only every four years kind of teams?
    We will NOT even make the NIT. Bank it.
    Will Texas? Probably.
    How about TTU & TCU?

    Call me what you will - but football next year is another losing season for sure; and I'll bet big bucks NEXT BBall season we will not be nearly as good as everyone seems to think and be very lucky to even make the NCAA.
    Koolaid drinkers unit!!

    Again, I love WVU, that's why I'm gripping about the dismal results we've seen in our two money sports for 2 to 3 YEARS now! When will it get better?

    • dan

      you dont love WVU you are Marshall fan wanting people to believe you are a WVU fan but its not working

    • shawn

      Your comments show you don't understand sports. Keep posting so I have something to laugh at every day.

    • Aaron

      WVU's money sports are doing better in the Big 12 losing then they would have been in the AAU winning. That's a simple fact. I also happen to think the previous posters are spot on in their assessments of your comments.

    • stevewvu

      Brian go back to posting on Conference USA message boards...you're not ready for big time college athletics

  • Alum

    "WVU is destined to sit out postseason play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002 and 2003." Allan, maybe you are right but I hope they prove you wrong with an NIT bid.

    This is a young team and we are 1-2 players short. It's too bad that both Holton and Macon are not available. There is a lot of upside to this team and I believe they will work through this cold streak and continue to improve.

    • Dennis

      I agree with your comments, it is too bad that they probably will only have 2-3 more wins this season. Given the hard work that they appear to be doing, a 12-13 win season will be hard on them.

      • Steve

        I'll bet you $1,000.00 they finish the season with more than 13 wins. Put your money where your mouth is.

    • Poca J

      The problem is WVU basketball has been playing the 'young' card every year since the final four. At what point is your team not young? The young excuse doesn't work especially when you lose at home to a team that is younger than you (Texas). Youth is not a viable excuse any longer.

  • Woodchuck

    WVU women beat #11 Iowa State last night if anyone is interested. Only 5 radio stations cover the girls and 3 of those are in the Morgantown area.

    • dan

      no not intrested im im only want to know if they win or lose boreing

  • Grant

    It is has always felt like this team is 1-2 players short. I think giving this group more experience and time in the weight room, then adding a couple of players, they'll be good next year.

    • bill

      Correct me if I'm wrong, you talk of how young this team is, didn't Texas start four freshman? Players are players whether they're freshmen or seniors, quit with "this is a young team" argument!

      • Barrett

        Amen brother! young teams are a thing of the past. Your either good, or not! Good programs reload.

      • Aaron

        Texas' young players are better than West Virginia's young players and there are more of them.

        It takes time to blend any talent as Kentucky's recent recruiting classes prove. Despite having the #1 ranked recruiting class every year Calapari has been there (a feat that was never done before, not even a KY but somehow a coach who has put two programs on probation has managed but that's another conversation) they have missed March Madness as many times as they've won it all.

        If the players stick around and do blend together, programs can be good as the current top 25 show. Over half the top 25 are made up of teams that blend with 5 mid majors and 8 other teams who aren't normally ranked.

        Say what you will but this team has a bright future.

        • bill

          Everyone expected WVUs bigs to have down year, but Harris/Henderson should be better than other teams freshmen but they have struggled against better teams. I think watching the game from the sideline that one player aka.(another Truck) is pulling this team down, to much involved in himself, instead of the team, he needs to become a point guard, and place the ball into open players hands, instead of dribbling all the time.

          • Grant

            So the OF who is #2 in the conference in assist and has an unbelievable assist to turnover ratio is the problem? Hmmm don't think so.

          • Grant

            Darn auto correct. I meant "PG" not "OF"

          • Mister Man

            Grant, you made your point. Good job.

          • Bill

            Mister Man

            Stats mean nothing if you are losing, "one man does not make a team", but one man can break a team! Like I said earlier, I hope I'm wrong....