And needing to fill those holes, the Mountaineer coaching staff set off on the recruiting trail looking for players who would fit in well on the court. But it also needed to find a group of guys who would be good for the team and could come in quickly to help build chemistry – something that West Virginia was in desperate need of a year ago.
Through the first few games of the season, it appears that the newcomers on this year's team have been able to adjust well and have been a big piece to its success and its 5-1 start.
Of course, this class isn't at its full strength with Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon both out due to eligibility issues, but the ones who have gotten to play have made their presences felt, and did so again Tuesday against Old Dominion.
And they're having success by doing the things they were brought in to do. Nobody is trying to do too much or doing things they can't do. One of the most impressive things about this team so far, as opposed to what it's been like in the past couple of seasons and more like the successful Huggins-coached WVU teams, has been that not only do these players know what their roles are expected to be but they're accepting those roles and doing what they can within them to help the team win.
With Devin Williams that role has been as a rebounder. Nathan Adrian and Remi Dibo are bigger guys who can play the three or the four and stretch defenses with their reliable shooting abilities and the other freshman, Brandon Watkins, is being looked at to be more of a defensive specialist who has rebounded well and has shown spurts of potentially being a shot blocker down in the low post.
Those new players have done well with the things they've been asked to do, and they're getting more comfortable. Players like Williams and Watkins are trying to get more involved offensively, and that will come with time. The same can be said of offensive-minded players like Adrian and Dibo, who have made strides on the defensive end of the floor.
But for now, as we've seen in the loss to Virginia Tech and Tuesday night at times in the first half against Old Dominion when the Monarchs were able to claw back from behind 22-9 to make it close, it's going to take this team some time (with all of the new faces) to be able to consistently compete with talented teams on a nightly basis and win games it needs to win.
This team has shown plenty of potential to be able to be a pretty good team, and will almost definitely end this season better than it did a year ago. It's shown that it can win big against the teams it should win big against. Tuesday night, it showed that it was able to withstand some runs from a decent team and leave with a win on a neutral floor.
Now it'll get a chance tomorrow against Wisconsin or St. Louis to prove what it can do against an NCAA tournament-caliber team. Wednesday's game will be interesting to see how this team full of players who haven't faced a team like this will handle the game and will handle a team that will try to take the Mountaineers out of their game.
It probably won't be the easiest game and this team will likely get a few lessons that it will be able to use the rest of the way.
Whether they come away with a win or a loss, the Mountaineers will get a good look at where they stand – especially the young players – tomorrow night in Cancun.