That last phrase might be a stretch, but within it there's more than a germ of truth. West Virginia has been able to run off 14 victories in its first 15 games largely due to the fact that it's not dependent on just one or two stars. What's more, it's best players have gone through some ups and downs, but every time a downward trend for one player occurs, there has been another one or two on the upswing.
That hasn't always been the case for recent WVU teams. In past years, if its top gun or best scorer had an off night, the result was usually a loss. But this year, the story is different.
It began at the start of the year, when Devin Williams ripped off a string of five consecutive double-doubles to start the season. Williams had a small productivity downturn recently due to foul trouble, but Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip stepped into the void to help fill out the scoring column. Phillip and Paige then had a bit of an off night against Oklahoma State on Saturday, but there was Teyvon Myers to fill in with enthusiastic defense and a few points, which also helped cover for the absence of Daxter Miles, who sat out with a sprained ankle. Elijah Macon has done the same in other instances this year, but the key in all of this is that at almost every juncture, head coach Bob Huggins has gotten a good performance from a backup when a starter hasn't met his normal level of performance.
While the hope is to get consistent performances from every player in every game, the reality is that it just isn't going to happen. Players have off nights. A bad match-up occurs. Decision-making might not be at its best. The players aren't automatons – they are humans. They are going to miss lay-ups and throw some head scratching passes. They'll come up with a defensive rotation that was never taught or mentioned in the game plan. But so far, save for the neutral-court loss to Virginia, WVU has had enough players on point for each game to give them enough to win.
With Kansas and Oklahoma looming on the schedule, plus the rest of the difficult Big 12 slate to follow, this is going to be more important than ever. And, in truth, it might not be enough to topple some of the top programs in the league. For that to happen, the Mountaineers may have to get near-peak performances from every player that sees the court.
This doesn't just include the usual names you might tab, including those previously listed, as well as Jonathan Holton and Jevon Carter. Brandon Watkins will need to be a rim protector and block a shot or two. Nathan Adrian must ignore the ridiculous noise directed at him by a segment of the fan base and do what he does best – pass the ball in the offense, help from the weak side on defense and earn floor burns from baseline to baseline. Esa Ahmad must pick his spots and score when the defense rolls away from him, and also become a bigger factor on the boards. They don't have to put up huge numbers, but each has to make his own contribution, whether it's in ways that show up in the box score or not.
Even if that happens, WVU might come up on the short end of the score against KU or OU. That's not trying to pre-make an excuse. It's simply a fact. There's great basketball every game night in the Big 12, and there are going to be contests in which the Mountaineers get outplayed. That won't mean that the season is over, or that WVU is destined for a collapse. It's simply life in this league, and during the upcoming stretch, Huggins' team will be facing the top of the conference. In order to defeat Kansas for the third consecutive year at home, or to pull off a solid upset in Norman, Okla., it will need every bit of the best play its supporting cast can muster.