Not Good Enough

Bob Huggins can try to tinker with the lineup. He can try different offensive and defensive schemes. None of it will matter, because this team simply isn't good enough.

The latest indignity for this particular West Virginia team, Saturday's 79-52 shellacking at the hands of Purdue, proved it beyond any doubt.

These players don't shoot, rebound, defend, pass or do anything well enough to compete at the level Huggins has been accustomed to. They compound their own deficiencies by making too many unintelligent plays.

They simply aren't good enough.

And as a result, one of the game's greatest minds sounded truly defeated.

"This is totally unacceptable. This is not what we're supposed to represent," Huggins told the Mountaineer Sports Network, in a tone that was more despondent than defiant. "Hopefully [those at WVU] have enough faith in me that I will fix it. I don't know that I can fix it totally this year ... [but] this is not going to be the norm."

Huggins didn't come out and say his players weren't good enough, but his actions said it anyway. After all, the head coach saw fit to start Matt Humphrey against the Boilermakers -- the same Matt Humphrey who had played only nine total minutes in games from Dec. 15 through Jan. 15.

It was just the latest tweak in a starting lineup that has been a revolving door all season long. Huggins repeatedly has avowed that he doesn't make much of who starts, and there's something to that, especially since 12 players saw action on Saturday.

But at this point, it seems as though the shifts are not rooted in any actual schematic planning. They seem tailored only to satisfy Huggins' curiosity, as the coach -- justifiably -- seems to wonder if any of his players can consistently play well.

Huggins vowed to go to a small lineup after Wednesday's close-but-not-quite comeback bid at Iowa State. He followed through, as Deniz Kilicli, Aaric Murray and Dominique Rutledge all played fewer than 10 minutes.

But the results weren't any better against Purdue. In fact, they were far worse.

The shooting was still awful -- 29.3 percent, the program's seventh-worst shooting performance in the last decade. The defense was bad, as Purdue shot nearly 50 percent from the field, scored 79 points (36 of which came in the paint). And rebounding? WVU wasn't even competitive, losing that battle by 10 overall.

They were never seriously in contention against what, to be frank, is not a very good Purdue team. The Boilermakers came into the game No. 120 in the RPI, becoming the third team ranked 120 or worse to beat WVU this season.

It's time Huggins stops the tinkering, finds a lineup he thinks has a decent chance of success and sticks with it. It may lead to further struggles initially, but those few players may actually get enough playing time to actually improve.

"I've never, in my coaching career, not been able to get guys to compete," Huggins said. "We don't compete. Okay, we shoot it terrible. It shouldn't stop us from guarding and rebounding. It sure doesn't cause you to throw the ball away."

Huggins is right, of course.

He praised Eron Harris for his work-ethic. It's time the lineup gets trimmed to Harris and the few others who have shown competitiveness on the floor. Even if the lineup that results isn't cohesive and lacks in certain areas, it's a start in what will almost certainly be a long process to bring this program out of the doldrums.


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