Critical Juncture

During the rebuilding process of any program, there are always some critical moments that can determine the course of future events. West Virginia's basketball team has apparently reached one of those after their loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Coming into the season, such a point didn't seem to even be on the radar screen. The Mountaineers had a set starting five and some promising new depth that seemed to herald another uptick in the program.

As is often the case with rebuilding jobs, however, things didn't progress smoothly. First one, then another starter lost minutes, then his starting spot. Established players didn't get shots, and it all seemed to boil over during the Notre Dame contest, when the offense ran about as smoothly as a 20 year old Vega.

Some are pointing a finger of blame at head coach John Beilein, who has continued to tinker with a lineup that brought WVU back to at least the fringes of respectability last year. Others single out the newcomers, who are getting more minutes, or some veterans, who haven't been as productive as in past seasons.

In truth, this is not a situation that calls for blame. It is, however, one that calls for concern and careful management. With roles on the team clearly in flux at the moment, and some obvious unhappiness among team members over playing time, the coaching staff is facing its first fork in the road on its rebuilding job.

If the staff can manage to keep the players believing in what they are doing, and convince them that they are on the path to greater success, then this first major hurdle will be cleared. If, however, some of the members of the team don't buy into the direction of the club, a meltdown similar to the one that Mountaineer fans witnessed two years ago could be in the offing.

This is not to say that it's all on the players to "do what's right", and follow the coaches blindly. Just as the game on the floor is team-oriented, so is the program as a whole. Coaches, players, and support staff all have to share the same goals, and believe in the methods being used to accomplish them, otherwise the effort is doomed from the start.

We don't have a Magic Eight Ball to predict the outcome, but we do know that if the Mountaineers are to have a successful season, they are going to have to do it together.

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