WVU Players Not as Advertised

In West Virginia coach Bob Huggins’ not-so-subtle hints of what is wrong with his Mountaineers, who are two games under .500 as the calendar flips to February, he has consistently spoken of the questionable work ethic and lack of basketball IQ among the fellows on his team.

Rather than nit-pick after Monday night’s loss to No. 1/2 Kansas, and lament about a guy who is standing a foot away from the basket and shoots it 4 feet, about another guy who runs this way when he’s supposed to go that way, or about a guy who thinks defense is a communicable disease, Huggins threw a blanket over the whole thing.

He began by looking back at the Big 12’s preseason poll, which he found mostly laughable.

”When they picked us sixth, I said there is no way we’re going finish sixth,” Huggins recalled. ”Our seniors are going to step up because our seniors always have stepped up. Obviously, you think your freshmen are going to get better. And the three transfers are going to come in and really add to our program.

”The reality is probably none of that’s happened, so now we’re 2-5. People don’t want to hear that but that’s the gospel truth. That’s what happened.”

Let’s break some of that down.

The Seniors

Excluding Matt Humphrey (for the moment), Deniz Kilicli and Dom Rutledge are the team’s seniors. Kilicli has never blossomed into what Huggins projected him as an All-Big East type of player three years ago. Rutledge is a transfer in his second season in the program who has never played more than 27 minutes or scored more than eight points in a game. This season, these two have combined for 10.2 points and 7.9 rebounds, or numbers most teams get out of one decent post player. These guys are in the game, at times, because someone has to be.

The Transfers

Humphrey joined Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten as transfers, and a bunch was expected of these guys. Being held out of games because of their own stubbornness was not among those expectations, but that has happened. Humphrey, whose minutes per game average is down to 11, has given WVU almost nothing. He did miss some time because of injury and hasn’t played in either of the last two games.

Staten isn’t far off what you would have thought in terms of his production – 9.8 points and 2.9 assists per game – but he has spent time in the doghouse, including the entirety of a one-point home loss to Kansas State.

Murray was thought of a one-and-done guy at West Virginia, but, as Huggins said, the jury is still out on that one. He’s the team’s leading scorer, and the only player averaging double figures at an even 10 points per game. He’s added 6.7 rebounds, but he’s at least temporarily lost his starting job and has clashed with Huggins most of the way.

There was some progress on this front Monday night, it seemed, when Murray rebounded from a tough beginning to score 17 points and pull down seven rebounds.

”To his credit, he came back and played pretty good and played with some enthusiasm and I think for him, played pretty hard,” Huggins said. ”I think earlier in the year, he probably wouldn’t have responded that way.”

The Freshmen

Eron Harris and Terry Henderson are the only two freshmen to see any significant time for the Mountaineers. Henderson showed flashes and is a crowd favorite at the Coliseum, but he, too has battled injury and his 7.6 points and three rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game aren’t enough.

Harris is just below him at 7.4 points and 2.0 rebounds, but he drew a 5-second call on defense against the Jayhawks, something that surely bought him more minutes in the eyes of Huggins.

The Results

What you have is a team that is in the top-5 of exactly three of 18 statistics the Big 12 promotes. The Mountaineers are first in turnover margin and offensive rebounds and second in steals. They’re last in field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage defense and eighth or worse in six others categories.

”I just never know what we’re going to do,” Huggins said. ”It seems like when we have made shots, we miss free throws. When the offense kind of ran, we didn’t guard.”

It’s one of those years.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net