MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Some 72 hours before West Virginia stages its first preseason basketball practice, coach Bob Huggins projected some improvements over last year’s NIT team.
“I hope we can get back to where we can guard people and where we can rebound the ball,” Huggins said Tuesday. “It makes it hard to stop other people’s runs if you can’t stop anybody and if you can’t get second shots.”
The Mountaineers permitted opponents to shoot 44.7 percent—the worst field-goal defense in the Big 12—and ranked eighth out of 10 teams in rebounding margin. After residing on the NCAA bubble in mid-February, West Virginia dropped six of its final eight games and finished 17-16.
“We couldn’t stop anybody. When we hit a drought (offensively), we couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Huggins said.
All-Big 12 point guard Juwan Staten returns as the catalyst, and forward Devin Williams produced eight double-doubles during an up-and-down freshman season. The long-awaited debuts of 6-9 freshman Elijah Macon and 6-7 junior Jonathan Holton figure to make West Virginia more paint-oriented, especially after guards Eron Harris (17.2 points) and Terry Henderson (11.7 points) transferred to Michigan State and N.C. State respectively.
“We probably won’t make as many 3s, and we probably won’t shoot it as well from 3,” Huggins said. “But we’ll pass it better, we’ll guard better and we’ll rebound it better, which makes up for that.”
Watch Huggins’ complete preseason news conference above, where he discusses the injury status of Kevin Noreen (out until January) and the potential lineup combinations involving five newcomers.