Versatility of Big 12 Players Still Troubling Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN – As Bob Huggins has said ad nauseum, there are a myriad of problems with his Mountaineers.
He continued to outstubborn them Wednesday night by sitting the guys he termed ”pouters.”
Read into this what you will – he mentioned no names – but Aaric Murray started and played four minutes. Jabari Hinds came off the bench for a total of six minutes. And Volodymyr Gerun, who had played in six games and 30 minutes all season, got in the ballgame twice.
”If there is such a thing as feeling better (after a loss),” Huggins said. ”I feel better because we did play hard. I got all the pouters out of the game and let them sit on the bench and pout. They are not going to pout on the floor anymore.”
If you add everything you hear – they stand around, they pout, they don’t compete, they don’t care – you have a team that cannot make much noise in its current conference, the Big 12.
A mostly – but not entirely – different team of Mountaineers competed tooth and nail in the Big East, which was regarded as the best basketball-playing league in the country at the time they left it.
Battling wills with the coach and some serious jet lag aside, is there something to the league switch that is affecting the Mountaineers? Are they looking in the mirror too much? There are two sides to every story. And the other side of the Big 12 is full of ultra-talented two-way players.
You didn’t have to be the best to grind out a victory in a 50-point game in the Big East. In the Big 12, if you don’t get to 70 on most nights, forget it.
First, Mountaineers forward Deniz Kilicli says the comparison is moot for one glaring reason.
”We didn’t play like this last year,” Kilicli said. ”It doesn’t matter where we are. We could be in the Mountain West and still struggle with this team, probably.”
It was a first of a series of eye-opening declarations made by the Turk, whose pride for his adopted home oozes from his voice like the reverb from his guitar.
”The Big East was a little bit different,” WVU forward Kevin Noreen said. ”It was more like a chess match after every game. Those coaches are such legends. It makes for more of an interesting game in that regard. The Big 12 is a little bit different in that the 3s and 4s are a little bit more athletic. The Big East is more plodding guys, set screens, rebound. It’s a little bit faster pace in the Big 12.”
”The bigs are really skilled (in the Big 12),” he said. ”The four men are more like three and a half. They can shoot the ball. It’s a mismatch every time.”
Never mind the 3s and 4s, Baylor freshman center Isaiah Austin, who stands at 7-foot-1, has hit 25 of 78 3-point attempts this season (32 percent).
Who can stop that?
”In the Big East you would see more stronger guys, more inside players,” Kilicli said. ”In the Big 12, you have really versatile players.”
There are a lot of two-trick ponies in the Big 12. West Virginia isn’t winning, in part, because it has very few of them.
Kilicli, like Huggins, believes there are ways to combat that, just that no one is doing it.
”You can get rebounds and steal the ball and help the team,” he said. ”Nobody wants to call themselves a bad player, so that’s the problem.
”Nobody’s honest with each other or themselves. That’s the problem. Everybody’s trying to do stuff they can’t do.”
It was at that point that Kilicli stopped himself.
”When I’m saying ‘they,’ I’m including myself as well.” Kilicli said. ”Stuff happens. We’re having a bad year and that’s because we’re not good enough for ‘Huggs’ or for this university.”
Or the Big 12. At the moment.
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org