Staying The Course

Bob Huggins isn't one to panic or make ill-considered changes when faced with a bit of adversity.

Huggins, who has pretty much seen it all in more than 900 games of coaching, knows that losses will occur, not matter how much he dislikes them. Although he's come out on the right end of the score much more often than not, he has gone through some tough stretches. And while West Virginia's current two-game losing streak certainly isn't a disaster, it has provided some challenges for which answers might not be readily apparent. So when Huggins arrived in Charleston for the annual contrived game with Marshall, his main focus was on staying the course.

"We're trying to fix some of the stuff we aren't doing very well, but with just a couple of days between games from here on out, there aren't a lot of drastic changes we can make," he said as he discussed his team's practice focus. "You try to do things the right way and you try to do things soundly so that you are able to adjust to what different people do."

While the over-hyped matchup with the Thundering Herd gets a lot of notoriety from the media, prevailing opinion is that the game means more to the Huntington crowd than it does to the majority of the WVU-backing mountain state. Huggins, while not pumping up the game, noted that the Mountaineers "watch just as much tape" on the Herd as it does for any league foe. That fits with his early statements that note the importance of every game, including early season non-conference matchups.

Ever a student of the RPI and always keeping an eye on NCAA possibilities, Huggins knows that simply making the tournament is not enough. It's important to get a high seed in order to have a good chance to advance. Squeak in at 11 or 12, and you'll be facing a highly-ranked first round foe. Get a dreaded 8-9 seed, and you'll be facing the number one seed in the second round. Therefore, every game is important. In addition to knocking off a few high-ranked opponents, you also have to "win the games you are supposed to win" – and this week's foes are two that fall into that category.

While worry about seeding is far down the road, it's affected by results throughout the season, so it's not a surprise to hear Huggins discuss such matters. He thinks that the variety of styles West Virginia has, and will, face through the year, will help in that regard.

"We have to win games, and we want to get a decent seed in the NCAA tournament and advance, and you don't do that by losing games. We let a couple games get away from us already this year, so we need to win.

"We see a whole bunch of different styles in our league, with it being so big. Marshall spreads you and tries to take you off the bounce, which a couple of other teams in our league do. I think their inside game is vastly improved, and I think they shoot it better from the perimeter."

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While Huggins proclaimed West Virginia to be "beaten up, just like everyone else", there was one bit of encouraging news on Tuesday. Jonnie West is out of his boot and walking on a treadmill. There is still no timetable set for his return, but he has made that bit of progress.

"Jonnie actually broke a sweat today. I was excited about that," Huggins joked. "But seriously, we don't want to rush him back into anything and reinjure it. He is able to walk on it and do a little bit."

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WVU's oft-documented shooting woes remain an issue, but Huggins, in his typical deadpan style, was able to find some humor in the matter.

"It'd be nice," he said with a straight face when asked about making shots. "It makes it a lot more fun to watch. We've shot it better in practice the past couple of days."


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