WVU ready for 'competitive' Big 12

West Virginia and head coach Bob Huggins are no strangers to the grind that comes with playing in one of the most competitive leagues in college basketball.

For years, the Mountaineers found themselves in the Big East Conference, the 16-team power conference that featured a handful of the nation's elite, blue-blood programs and always was among the conferences with the most bids in the NCAA tournament.

But Huggins doesn't know if he has seen anything quite like what his West Virginia team is going to have to go through in the final handful of games as the Mountaineers will be going to battle every night against a Big 12 Conference that is loaded from top to bottom with quality teams.

"I don't know if 'enjoy' is the right word, but it's really competitive," Huggins said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. "The truth of the matter is that in the Big East, we had nine or 10 very good teams and then we had some teams that weren't nearly as competitive. It's not that way in this league. Ten teams are all very, very competitive and you can't look down the schedule and say, 'We can get this one, or this one, or this one.' They're all really hard."

Seven of the 10 Big 12 teams have been ranked in the Associated Press top 25 this year, with three teams (No. 10 Texas, No. 12 Kansas and No. 14 West Virginia) currently landing a place in the top 15.

"The Big 12 has done a great job of putting out some facts. The number of draft picks the Big 12 has had, the number of lottery picks, our conference RPI and the number of teams in the NCAA tournament - it's staggering," Huggins said. "The only thing that's even comparable is the ACC, and you're talking 16 teams to 10. The statistics are unbelievable."

As West Virginia prepares for its games against Texas Tech tonight, the Mountaineers will have its star player back in the lineup as Huggins said Monday that senior point guard Juwan Staten should be able to play against the Red Raiders.

"He practiced (Sunday). He's good," Huggins said.

Staten missed WVU's Big 12 opener against TCU with an illness. He's currently leading West Virginia in scoring, averaging 16.1 points per game, and is averaging 4.2 assists per game - tallying 55 assists to just 24 turnovers in his first 13 games.

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