Causality Or Correlation?

Bob Huggins is hammering consistency and lack of effort as West Virginia drowns in the vicious chicken-or-egg cycle of both.

And, to his credit, what more really is there to say? It's been hammered here as well, so there's little sense in boring one with a summation of what the team doesn't do well. Huggins pretty well nailed it himself on his Big 12 teleconference.

"We didn't play the way that I'm used to seeing our guys play," Huggins said of the Purdue blowout. "We didn't play defensively. We didn't rebound the ball. We let them do the things that they are good at doing. Normally, we try to take at least some of these things away. … I thought we had a pretty good practice on Friday. I don't know."

And how could he. Unknowns are killing this team, now at 8-9 and preparing for a slate that, after TCU at home, features games at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech sandwiched around ESPN's Big Monday meeting in the Coliseum against No. 2 Kansas, 16-1 and threatening top-rated Duke. Frankly, all of those games, sans Kansas, seem winnable. And all, even TCU – 0-5 in the league and losers of five consecutive – seem losable.

"We felt pretty good going into the Kansas State game," Huggins said. "I thought we did a good job defensively. We just didn't make a basket when we needed to make a basket. Iowa State, we just didn't get a stop when we needed to get a stop. But we held them to their lowest offensive outputs of the year. We haven't been very consistent. … We are giving up almost 44 percent field goal percentage. People are shooting 35 percent from three. That has never happened. Never, ever happened. We are not very consistent defensively. And obviously we are not consistent offensively. But defense is something you should be consistent at."

And that's the which-came-first question. Is West Virginia's lack of effort hurting its consistency? Or is its lack of consistency – its amazing ability, then inability, to shoot, rebound, play defense, execute basic instructions – hurting its effort? It seems a mix of both. Whichever came first, and the smart bet is the consistency monster reared its head just a bit before the effort bandit, the how and why are so long ago that it doesn't matter. What matters now is fixing it. Huggins has said he would, and he has acknowledged that it might not be this season.

So what, then, should one expect the remainder of the way? Huggins himself doesn't know. West Virginia isn't significantly removed, really, from being 11-7, 3-1 in the Big 12. Victories over Duquesne (that's still a head shaker), Kansas State and Iowa State were ripe for harvest. Even Davidson was a potential win once WVU upped its effort late. The Mountaineers could also have palindromed that upper mark into a 7-11 or worse record, escaping against Virginia Tech, Radford and Eastern Kentucky. Which pendulum end more aptly represents this team is likely neither. The best description is the pendulum itself, West Virginia continually swinging back and forth between solid and sad. How the Mountaineers approach the remainder of the season will determine whether they utilize that line to hang on, or merely hang themselves.

Rifle Reports:

  • On if he has ever gone through a season such as this: "Not that I can remember. We find different ways to shoot ourselves in the foot. We shoot it ok from the field, we can't make a foul shot. We make a foul shot, we can't shoot it from the field. I've never had teams that didn't guard. We haven't guarded very well. I never saw it coming. I honestly thought we would be very competitive."

  • On if a lack of offense depletes the WVU's defensive intensity: "I don't think there's any question that when you score, you probably have more energy. But, c'mon. We start a game, we miss a lay-up. We get a clear out and miss a lay-up. Then I think we turned it over two or three of the next four possessions (against Purdue). Not just turned it over, but turn it over that led to baskets. We shot ourselves in the foot. The hope is that, when you do those things, you play so much harder to try and get a stop to get yourself back in the game. That didn't happen.

  • On if anything can motivate this team: "We talk constantly to them about different things. It's a different group. If you're talking about bringing somebody in to inspire them, I don't think that would work."

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