One of the things that West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins has often stated about the Big 12 is that it is a league with no bottom, meaning the conference schedule is chalked full of solid teams from top to bottom and you have to play well in every game in order to win. That was on full display earlier in the week when the No.7 Mountaineers traveled to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech, played poorly and lost in overtime.
On Saturday the Mountaineers hope to bounce back against TCU, a program that has normally finished near the bottom of the Big 12 standings since joining the league in the 2011-2012 season. This year is a little different though, as there seems to be a real buzz around the program as the Horned Frogs have won 12 of their first 14 contests. Part of the buzz is because Jamie Dixon, a coach who hasn't made many friends in Morgantown over the years, has taken over his alma mater after building one of the country's more consistent programs at Pitt. In Dixon's first season TCU has already matched its win total in the 2015-2016 season (the Horned Frogs finished 12-21 a year ago) and has split its first two conference games.
Many people in the basketball world may be surprised at the ascension of the Horned Frogs but Huggins, who is more than familiar with playing Dixon's teams, isn't one of them.
"I was with Jamie in the Big East for four or five years and they do a great job defensively," Huggins said. "He's spreading things a little more offensively but defensively they do a great job of limiting your transition and they do a great job of really gapping things in the half court."
TCU opened conference play with two close games against Kansas and Oklahoma (the Horned Frog nearly knocked off the No.3 ranked Jayhawks) and is one of six teams in the Big 12 who has lost two games or less on the season. But while Kansas is a perennial top 10 team, all eyes in the conference have been fixated on what Baylor is doing. The Bears are sitting on a 14-0 record and there is a very good chance that they will come to Morgantown as the No.1 team in the country next Tuesday. That fact hasn't switched Huggins' focus off of the Horned Frogs though, as he shrugged off a question about the upcoming match-up between the Bears and Mountaineers.
"In all due respect we need to concentrate on TCU and we'll worry about the rest of them when they come," said Huggins.
That match-up and many others highlight a very tough gauntlet that lies ahead for the Mountaineers, who are trying to become the first Big 12 team not named Kansas to win a regular season conference championship in 12 seasons. While Huggins was in no hurry to look forward to any specific match-up, he did speak on the challenges of playing in the best conference in America.
"I don't think there has been much drop off," said Huggins. "Just look at everybody's records - two losses is a bunch in this league. I think the round robin schedule is difficult because of the familiarity and conference games continue to remain so close because of the familiarity that everyone has with one and another."