There was a certain buzz in the air as Mountaineer players and coaches took the court on Thursday afternoon. No, it's not because West Virginia is 10-1 and finds itself No.11 in the latest AP poll (although that helps no surely helps), it's because on Friday afternoon it will play its last 2016 game of an easy, very underwhelming slate that featured just one ranked team. Bob Huggins, who hasn't been pleased with his team's focus in the last few contests, spoke about the upcoming Big 12 slate ahead of tomorrow's match-up with Northern Kentucky.
"It's time," Huggins said. "This league is so hard. It's the first league I have ever been in with no bottom. For everything that we said about the Big East, it had a bottom. There's no bottom (in the Big 12). It's a grind and you have to show up. Even TCU has struggled but Kansas went in there a couple of years ago not ready to play and just got whacked."
That grind will start on Dec. 30 when the Mountaineers travel to Stillwater to take on a very solid Oklahoma State team, but before the Mountaineers dial in on the Cowboys they must take care of business against Northern Kentucky, a team who has won six straight contests and enters the match-up 9-3. Huggins spoke a little bit about the Norse, which is a team he has a high level of familiarity with.
"They lead the country in road wins," Huggins observed. "I know the coach well because he used to come over to Cincinnati and play. He's from right across the river and one of my best players of all time is his cousin. They'll compete and they'll play really hard. They're like everyone else, we just have to make them turn the ball over. If we can make them turn the ball over we'll be fine."
Teyvon Myers shared his thoughts on the non-conference play and the lack of focus the Mountaineers have displayed in some of the previous contests, saying the Mountaineers have had some quality practices after Huggins seemed thoroughly unsatisfied with the group's effort against Radford.
"We have had some pretty good practices," Myers said. "I just felt like last game it was kind of hard because we have had to play teams that we play down to. I feel like when the heat comes on then we'll be ready to go."
And although Huggins demands his players to have a razor sharp focus week in and week out (and rightfully so), it is somewhat understandable to see why the Mountaineers may have trouble getting up when they're beating a team by 30 points in the first half. Outside of Virginia and Temple, West Virginia has been largely unchallenged throughout non-conference play but Myers feels the group has still been able to use the out of conference schedule to prepare and work on its own game.
"Basically we just try to use every game as a practice," Myers said. "We just try to run things sharp and get things in motion the way that they're supposed to be so we can do well in the Big 12 and hopefully have a good run."