Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Point guard Juwan Staten closes out a fantastic regular season as West Virginia hosts Kansas on Saturday.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Saturday’s regular-season finale features a marquee visitor in No. 8 Kansas and a “Gold Rush” marketing promotion expected to brighten the sold-out WVU Coliseum. Yet West Virginia won’t be staging senior day ceremonies, because the roster doesn’t have any.

Well, not really.

“We’ve got two managers and a student trainer,” said coach Bob Huggins, who would certainly dress all three if they could help defend against the Jayhawks.

Big 12 champions for an unfathomable 10th consecutive season, Kansas (23-7) ranks third nationally in field-goal shooting, 16th in points-per-possession and 12th in offensive efficiency. Those are scary metrics for what is turning out to be one of Huggins’ softest defensive units.

West Virginia ranks 194th out of 351Division I teams in defensive efficiency, and to put that in deeper context, it sits 82nd out of 96 teams in the power-eight RPI leagues (Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 Big East ACC, Atlantic 10, SEC and American). While Huggins has repeatedly pinned the defensive lapses on youth, he has grown tired of the excuse.

“I’d feel a lot better if we had 25 wins with this young team,” he said.

Even more daunting, Kansas has won five of six entering Saturday—keeping alive its hopes of an NCAA No. 1 seed—while WVU has dropped four of five—squashing its hopes of an NCAA at-large bid.

From where do the Mountaineers draw optimism for an upset? Oddly enough, from their  83-69 road loss to Kansas on Feb. 8. Despite the lopsided final score, West Virginia trailed by four points with five minutes left.

“It was a four-point game with four minutes to go and I don’t think we played particularly well,” Huggins said. “Terry (Henderson) probably played the worst game he’s ever played here. I thought we could play a lot better.”

That day Kansas had 7-footer Joel Embiid collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. He won’t play this time around, said coach Bill Self, who plans to rest the freshman phenom (and potential No. 1 overall pick) and his aching back.

Not that Embiid’s absence leaves Self short-handed. The Jayhawks still have Perry Ellis, Memphis transfer Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor for an inside presence.

“It’s an awful thing isn’t it? You lose probably the No. 1 pick in the draft and you replace him with a former McDonald’s All-American,” Huggins deadpannned before Friday’s practice. “They’re talented everywhere. They’re so big and strong inside. They threw four (big men) at us out there and now they’re down to only three.”

Tipoff: Saturday, noon, in Morgantown (ESPN)
Records: The Jayhawks (23-7, 14-3) are 5-5 in true road games after falling at Oklahoma State 72-65 a week ago. Since then, they bounced back by ripping Texas Tech 82-57 in Lawrence.  … The Mountaineers (16-14, 8-9) lost 72-62 at Oklahoma on Wednesday night and need a victory to have any hopes of securing a first-round bye at the Big 12 tournament.
RPIs: Kansas is No. 2 and WVU is No. 86.
Coach: Bill Self (530-171 in 21 seasons overall) keeps the Kansas program humming, so much so the Jayhawks own a three-game lead in the nation’s highest-rated RPI conference. He’s 323-66 at KU, building upon success he enjoyed at Illinois, Tulsa and Oral Roberts. He has coached in seven Elite Eights, 15 consecutive NCAA tournaments and two Final Fours, highlighted by the 2008 national title.
Kansas’ top players: Though he hasn’t lived up to stratospheric expectations, Andrew Wiggins (16.0 points, 5.8 rebounds) warrants consideration for Big 12 player of the year, which will be announced Sunday. The 6-8 freshman forward will make his final push by returning to the state where he played his final two seasons of him school ball at Huntington Prep. Wiggins scored 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting against the Mountaineers in Lawrence. Said WVU forward Kevin Noreen: “Ben McLemore was pretty explosive last year, but Wiggins is even longer than him and more explosive.” … Forward Perry Ellis (13.2 points 6.4 rebounds) figures to be featured in the low post with Joel Embiid sidelined. And swingman Wayne Selden Jr., who scored 17 points on 3-of-5 3-point shooting vs. WVU last time, benefits when defenses focus on Wiggins.
WVU roster notes: Eron Harris endured a clunker of a game at Oklahoma, shooting 2-of-9 with three turnovers and just five points—only the third time he was limited to single digits all season. He obviously needs to approach or surpass his 17.6-per-game average for WVU to have a prayer Saturday.  … Point guard Juwan Staten (18.2 points, 5.8 assists and 5.9 rebounds) saw his Big 12 POY chances fade with the recent losing streak, but he has been the league’s most consistent playmaker. … Remi Dibo has made 2-of-13 shots in his last two games and failed to get to the foul line in either. … Devin Williams produced 14 points and 12 rebounds in the loss at OU, his second straight double-double. He could stand a better chance Saturday with Embiid’s shot-blocking presence missing.
Line: Kansas favored by 4
Prediction: Kansas 79-72
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  • Aaron

    Perhaps if the Huggins haters actually knew the game of basketball, they could hold forth an intelligent conversation but essentially all they do is regurgitate the same tired tripe over and over again no matter how many times they're proven wrong.

    Barry, Hatter and William (or is it Barry/Hatter/William) and their claim that Huggins can no longer recruit. The players Coach Huggins has brought in prove them they are wrong but in their infinite wisdom; they point to transfers and say he runs them off.

    When you site stories from players explaining why they transferred, which in all but 2 instances exonerate Coach Huggins, they refuse to see it. It’s clear these individuals (or is it this person) harbor deep seated hatred (or is it resentment or jealously) for Huggy bear so there’s really no reason to argue with them (or him), all you can do is point out the truth and watch them/him squirm with they attempt to justify their hatred.

    As I write this, WVU is up 14 and the WVU bench just drew a technical. If Kansas comes back and wins, they/he will be out in full force. If WVU manages to hold on, they/he may come out and post once or twice but will slink back, hoping, praying and waiting until WVU loses.

    They’re (he’s) nothing if not predictable.

  • 4WVUinKY

    This place is rockin'...came to nothin' to lose!

  • Mike

    Harris needs to quit trying to be Michael Jordan and just be Ray Allen.

    • 4WVUinKY

      Lookin' like MJ to me...I'm good with that!

  • TruthTeller

    Worse case scenerio WVU loses and goes on to play in the NIT. Playing in the NIT will do this young team some good. It will get them ready for the other tournament. This team will get better. Have any of you critics ever coached college basketball? Do you really know how difficult it is? Too many arm chair coaches posting on this site. Real WVU fans pull for the Mountaineers no matter what their record is. WVU is always the underdog no matter what but that is what makes it exciting. Nobody in the country ever expects WVU to ever do anything because they all think we are a bunch of backwoods shed living toothless hillbillies thanks to Hollyweird.

  • wvufan 75

    I sit back and read the posts hoping to learn something about the team. All I learn is how ignorant the majority is when it comes to reality. Reality is Huggins is a HOF coach and that is a fact so when hes gone everyone is truly going to realize what and asset he was to WVU.

  • jay zoom

    bobby bobby bobby the only way you will ever see 25 wins is if ---- now that I think about it you never will. around 2:15 p.m. today at the press conference have a box of tissues ready because you will be crying the way you usually do. you coached this bunch for 30 games if they haven't learned by now they sure won't today. in closing where did WVU find 14,000 people to attend this game must be transporting them in by bus from across state lines gave most of them a free ticket because surely we don't have 14,000 idiots in this state. THANKS OLLIE

    • Beaver Sniffer

      I know we have at least one! And stop calling me Shirley!

    • DWM

      Glad to see that the idiot section of the state has reported in. For his career Huggins has averaged 23 and at WVU he has averaged 21, yet he'll never see 25 again?

      • Big Larry

        No...I am so sorry to inform you but WVU will NEVER again see a 25 win season under Bob Huggins...

        Look for the Mountaineers to win 20 games next year if...

        1. Everyone stays healthy

        2. Huggins don't kick half of the current players off the team

        3. Macon and Holton become eligible and are able to play

        It is what it is...

        • DWM

          In light of today's outcome, would you gentlemen care to reasess your statements about Mountaineer Basketball, the coaching acumen of Bob Huggins, and the future of the WVU Basketball program? Must have killed you to watch the be a top 10 team today.

  • Big Larry

    Is an upset possible? Yes of course...

    However don't look for one. Look for a hard fought battle with Kansas pulling it out at the end...

    This will be another moral victory for the Mountaineers...

  • mad hatter

    as jack flemming used to say, "Let's bring on the mountaineers"