Better Late Than Never
Is it breaking news? Probably not. I mean, just about anybody with a pulse could pick up wins at Texas Tech and at home vs. Texas this season. Still, it's good to see that the Mountaineers haven't given up hope. On not-so-Big Monday, WVU defeated Texas 60-58 despite some last-second attempts to blow it. The Mountaineers improved to 11-11 on the season and 4-5 in the Big 12 Conference. "I think we have a chance. I think we're getting better at guarding, and we have started to rebound better," said head coach Bob Huggins. West Virginia doesn't have much to play for at this point in the season. The chances it makes the NCAA tournament will come down to a run in the Big 12 tournament, and there really isn't much to be motivated for when it comes to the NIT or CBI or whatever other three-letter mediocre postseason tournament exists. "Earlier in the year, we just stopped playing," said guard Jabarie Hinds. "Now we're playing all game long … This season, some days we just didn't know what was going to happen. Now, we have an identity and we're coming together." There is more to the final two months of this season than nine more games and a conference tournament. WVU has the potential to build upon the good in an attempt to return to relevancy in 2013-14. There are pieces that could make this team more successful a year from now. With more time playing together in the offseason, it can only help with some of the turnover woes and outright dumb plays the team has made throughout each game this year. Players like Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray (should he return like he told me he was planning on last week) will gain a lot with another year under Huggins. Other players like Gary Browne, Hinds, Keaton Miles, Eron Harris and Terry Henderson will only get better, too. It's not like there's a lack of talent on the roster without the two seniors Deniz Kilicli and Dominique Rutledge. Sure, the Mountaineers will be looking for more of an inside presence to go to next year, but it will have some of the best guards out there – and ones who aren't freshmen for the first time in what feels like a long time. That's a lot of positive comments for a team that is merely .500 this season. I understand that. There's a lot of negative to say, and I probably said it all on press row Monday night. We've all heard it over and over. Even Huggins himself said it following his team's loss to Kansas last week. He said that his team hasn't improved the way he wanted – but that's what he's always going to say in a season like this. "I don't know why it took so long to come together," Hinds said. "I knew it was going to come, but I don't know why it happened so late. I'm just glad it happened. "Now, we come to practice with a different perspective – and that's something we didn't do earlier this year. We're getting better … We are going to play a whole game, win some tough games, not give up." There's a whole lot to look forward to with this team and program. I don't believe for one second that it will have another season like this under Huggins. That's why WVU isn't giving up on this season just yet. They're still working just as hard as they were a month ago and probably twice as hard as two or three months ago. And that's why I'm so positive after that game.