I know it’s been a tough year for West Virginia basketball fans.
But anyone who says that head coach Bob Huggins needs to be sent packing doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Last season, the first in the brutal Big 12 conference, was tough on the Mountaineers. However, Huggins said he would fix it and this year was better.
WVU finished 9-9 in the Big 12, which is arguably the best conference in the country. (We had been playing in the Big East and at that time it was the toughest conference in the U.S.)
Huggins’ team had wins over top ranked teams like Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. All of those teams are currently in the NCAA tournament.
Yes, they ended the season with a tough defeat in the first round of the NIT to Georgetown. However, the Mountaineers had to go on the road to play in a little cracker-box gym that only seats 2,000. That’s smaller than many venues we have for our high schools here in the Mountain State.
Then you have to consider that WVU did not have the services of 4-star low post recruit Elijah Macon who was declared ineligible by the NCAA. Then JUCO transfer Jonathan Holton, another player Huggins and his staff were relying on to help in the low post, was also declared ineligible.
Both should be ready to play next November, along with two new guard recruits Daxter Miles and Jevon Carter.
This year’s entire roster will be back next season. Juwan Staten, arguably the best point guard in the country and a first team All-Big12 selection will be leading the team again in his senior season. Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, two scorers and both 3-point threats, will be back as juniors. Devin Williams, who started as a freshman, will be bigger and better. Williams had several double-doubles this season.
Mix in players like Remi Dibo, Nathan Adrian, Brandon Watkins, Gary Browne, Kevin Noreen and even walk-on Chase Connor and the 2014-15 season looks good.
Now, to get back to Huggins. This man has won 740 career games. I don’t care how good a coach you are – if you don’t have the talent, it’s difficult to win in “big-boy” basketball.
Then take into consideration Huggins was born in Morgantown and played at WVU.
Since he returned to his alma-mater he has taken the team to the Final Four (in 2010), six NCAA tourney appearances and this year’s post season NIT.
Don’t forget he also won the school’s only Big East tournament. Also, he raised millions for the new basketball practice facility.
He visited Upper Big Branch during that disaster in Boone County and brought food for the families. (He didn’t seek any publicity for that, he tried to visit without any fanfare.)
Huggins also raises funds for cancer research in Morgantown and for the state of West Virginia.
Next season, when the Mountaineers are ranked in the top 25, winning more games and undoubtedly making it to the NCCA tournament – attitudes will be much different.
Let’s see how many fans jump on the blue and gold bandwagon next season. I bet there will be plenty.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33 or Twitter @KyleLovern)