Potential Is There

West Virginia's men's basketball team has yet to put a quality game together against a decent team, but it's showing signs of life.

For a relatively veteran group, signs of life aren't what head coach Bob Huggins wants to hear five games into the season. Yet, that's just what this team has been reduced to through November.

Sure, the Mountaineers pulled out an impressive 94-69 victory over VMI on Wednesday to open up play at the WVU Coliseum. It was honestly expected, though. West Virginia has to win games like that.

It hasn't been easy so far this season, though. This team, in reality, is barely that. It really hasn't had an opportunity to play a lot of live basketball minutes against opponents yet. And perhaps that's the biggest reason why I have hope the Mountaineers will be able to find a way to win games in the Big 12 Conference.

"We're growing. As far as talent, we've got that," said center Aaric Murray. "When they say chemistry, it's about being in your spot and not being lazy. We need to know the play. That type of team chemistry is what we need."

There are times – maybe more specifically moments – that West Virginia looks like it can be a top 25-type of team.

There were two key plays that stood out on Wednesday to show that they are working their way into something of substance. In the first half, LaSalle transfer Murray dunked off a nice feed from Dayton transfer Juwan Staten who was charging down the lane to make it 48-29.

In the second half, Staten put down a dunk following a nice steal and quick pass up the floor from returning guard Gary Browne to make it 64-38.

Newcomers are starting to mesh with fellow newcomers and some of the returning players to put up quick points, something this team is obviously much better at than many of the Mountaineers' teams in the recent past.

When WVU is playing with pace, it seems to gain confidence and thusly is hard to beat. However, is that what the Mountaineers are comfortable with? And, can they do it against a solid opponent? "That is something we will have to get used to, and that starts in practice," Staten said. "We try to practice fast, but it takes a minute to be able to do it in a game."

When WVU is hitting open jump shots, it gains that type of confidence, as well. That hasn't happened much yet, and there is fear that if freshman Terry Henderson can't get the job done from behind the 3-point line nobody will.

If that problem could somehow be solved, and maybe it's simply filled by Henderson as he becomes more comfortable with the college game, then WVU takes a step forward.

"We play a difficult way. Coach Huggs plays a different style than what a lot of us are used to, so it takes time," Staten said. "It kind of makes you think a bit more, and that can lead to struggling early, but the better we pick it up the better we'll become."

Sure, there are a lot of questions that this team must answer before it takes on a Big 12 opponent in conference play. There are a lot of things to dislike based on the first month of the season. Still, there are some things to be encouraged by, as well.

If there's one thing Huggins has proven over his career, it's to never, ever count him or his teams out early. West Virginia will get better as it learns to play under its legendary head coach.

There is too much talent to miss an NCAA tournament. If last year's roster – even with a player like Kevin Jones – can make it to the big dance, this one can definitely do it, too.

That doesn't mean it will be easy – especially with so many unknowns. Just don't count them out yet.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories