After dropping two straight games in Big 12 play there is obvious disappointment among West Virginia's fanbase, but for those involved in the program there is a much more even keel and rational response. Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins, who is surely more disappointed than anyone else about the recent skid, says the Mountaineers are still pretty good but they simply need to take better care of the ball and make their free throws.
"We're pretty good," Huggins said. "We just haven't finished games for a multitude of reasons. We haven't made free throws when we have needed to make free throws, we lost two overtime games because we didn't make free throws and the other team did. In all three of those games we turned the ball over as much or more than the opposition did."
Those probably aren't earth shattering revelations to those who watched the Mountaineers turn the ball over 23 times against Kansas State and miss a handful of clutch free throws in losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma, but the good news it that both of those issues can be fixed and Huggins knows a thing or two about coaching and correcting repetitive mistakes. Huggins also knows a little bit about defense and the veteran head coach has seen a noticeable drop off in West Virginia's pressure.
"I don't think our ball pressure is very good. Our ball pressure isn't what it was and maybe we're playing guys for too many minutes but then it's hard to keep a guy in who goes in and allows a straight line drive to the basket for a lay-up. It's our ball pressure and we're not closing traps the way we were. Those are the two things that stand out."
Huggins also pointed out that trapping has been a point of emphasis in West Virginia's recent practice sessions and said the Mountaineers have made some schematic tweaks to their full court press. The hope is that those adjustments lead to more forced turnovers, because West Virginia will need to find a way to make Frank Mason and the visiting Kansas Jayhawks uncomfortable on Tuesday evening. Mason, who is in his senior season at Kansas, is the Big 12's leading scorer at 20.1 points per game and has impressed Huggins with his stellar play throughout the season.
"I just think he's playing with more confidence," Huggins said in respect to Mason. "I think he's just playing with a huge amount of confidence. Before he was surrounded with more options, and they have a lot of options now but I think him being the senior and him being their leader gives him a lot more confidence."
Mason is leading a Kansas team that has won 18 straight contests after opening the season with an overtime loss to Indiana. The Jayhawks are No.1 in the coaches poll and No.2 in the AP poll entering the match-up and according to Huggins, speed and transition are among the chief reasons for their success.
"They're terrific in transition," Huggins said. "They have got multiple guys who can push the ball. They have great speed. They're great finishers. I haven't seen anyone nearly as good in transition as they are. They just have great speed - they're running with people and all of a sudden they're laying it in."