Huggins and Outs

Tuesday came a little quicker than expected for Bob Huggins.

Based on his responses and demeanor following the selection process Sunday, it didn't seem as if Huggins was very receptive to the team's seeding conditions.

For starters, the coach was not pleased with the fact that they would have to wait until late Tuesday evening to find out who their opponent will be.

"When you draw a low seed, you typically end up with a mid-major or a smaller program," Huggins noted. "We may end up playing a major conference team right off the bat. What's the advantage in getting the low seed then?"

If that isn't enough, it would seem the NCAA seeding committee isn't lacking in a sense of opportunity. If West Virginia manages to make it to the next round their opponent may likely be the 4th seeded Kentucky Wildcats. In what would be yet another Calipari-Huggins reunion.

Huggins was not thrilled at the prospect of that occurrence, either. "What you have is a team that's rated No. 7 in RPI going against a team that's No. 21 in RPI in the second round. That just doesn't seem right to me."

So without a specific game plan in place and with a field of uncertainty left to tend, the team practiced Monday and Tuesday. Perhaps getting back to basics in a loose atmosphere is just what the Mountaineers needed. Whatever has transpired in their practices has seemed to alleviate some of the stress from the coach.

"We've had a couple good practices so far. Hopefully that carries over once we know who we're playing and we can go right into preparing."

West Virginia's 20-11 record has come by way of staunch defense and aggressive rebounding. It also doesn't hurt that their biggest wins have come when they manage to get through the net. West Virginia ranks 147th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 69.5 points per game. Low scoring affairs have been in their favor, but they need a few guys to step up and make some shots if they're to succeed. It's a simple formula, and it's easier said than done. Huggins makes no qualms about it.

"We have to have a more efficient offense and make smarter decisions," said Huggins, very plainly and directly. "We get open shots and players don't make them."

West Virginia's leading scorer, Casey Mitchell, has had an up-and-down year and has been beleaguered at times. He's averaging 14.1 points per game and Huggins knows he will be a key to the team's tournament survival.

"I think he needs to play well for us to play well," Huggins said of Mitchell. "He's had two of his best practices since early in the season."

Joe Mazzulla has developed a reputation for saving his best basketball for the NCAA tournament over the past two years. Teams may be keying on him this year, but the coach thinks that works to their advantage.

"(Two years ago) when we played Duke, we felt like he could drive the ball and stretch the court. Last year against Kentucky, he was shooting the ball well in practice and they weren't expecting him to shoot, so he just went out there and shot. If teams start focusing on him, that's a good thing. That means someone else should be open. We just can't make bad decisions offensively."

Those aren't the only advantages the former Mountaineer player-turned-coach recognizes. He knows where the teams strengths are.

"There's nothing wrong with our defense. I think we shocked people with our length. (Other teams) talk about it but they really don't understand until they play the game."

So how does Huggs feel about the team's chances?

"There isn't any reason we can't win," Huggins boasted. "Think of some of the teams we've played and beaten. There are good players out there, but it's not like we're going against (Ben) Hansbrough and (Kemba) Walker right now."

Something over the past couple days at practice has restored the coach's confidence. He hopes heading into Thursday's matchup with either UAB or Clemson that his confidence isn't misplaced.

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