Where was DePaul? South Florida? Providence? Seton Hall? Rutgers? St. John’s? The Big East was impressive at the top, but had stumblers at the bottom.
This year’s NCAA tournament has Big 12 representatives Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Iowa State in the 68-team field.
Left in the shadows to wonder when times will be brighter are West Virginia, Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, and Texas Christian. Baylor, Texas and West Virginia all won at least 19 games last season. And all were in the NCAA tournament field.
Baylor owned two wins over the Mountaineers. Texas Tech ended West Virginia’s season with a two-point win over the Mountaineers in the Big 12 tournament.
West Virginia’s 6-12 conference record had wins over Texas, Texas Christian and Texas Tech. None of those teams reaching the NCAA tournament was beaten by WVU.
A 13-19 record was not expected. A dozen losses in 18 conference games was also unexpected.
Nobody will make excuses that use NCAA tournament entrants Gonzaga, Davidson and Michigan as reasons the Mountaineers fell back this season.
It was the worst Bob Huggins record since his first year at Akron. When he sees the Zips in the tournament with their 26 wins, Huggins must shake his head in wondering just how the basketball world turned upside down and left him on the outside. It’s probable that both Baylor and Texas will be back with teams that will soon return to the NCAA tournament.
Will West Virginia be able to match them?
The most visible question that begs a remedy is: What happened to cause such a rapid decline?
West Virginia had 13 scholarship players who all had physical shortcomings. And too many of them cared too much about themselves or wouldn’t give the effort necessary for the team to profit.
Deniz Kilicli, Dominique Rutledge, and Matt Humphrey were seniors. Kilicli was wholly inconsistent with the exception being that his defense was always lacking. Rutledge fouled too often, scored too little and lacked in fundamentals. Humphrey was troubled by a balky back and missed too much time.
There are still 10 players on the roster with remaining eligibility.
Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, the two freshmen, were more than adequate. They both scored and were examples with their effort. Neither is a defensive model and each needs work against presure defenses. They could help get the Mountaineers out of the league’s second division.
Point guards Juwan Staten and Jabarie Hinds are problems. Having steady play from your guards is imperative in successfully competing against a schedule of teams full of national quality. Staten doesn’t shoot well at all and Hinds is only slightly better.
If those two occupy most of the minutes at point guard in 2013-14, then the Mountaineers will suffer again.
Keaton Miles just can’t score enough.
Kevin Noreen is from the same non-scoring mold. His severe lack of quickness is always troublesome against any 6-foot-8 player from any of the other Big 12 teams.
Volodymyr Gerun needs basketball savvy. He lacks quickness and watching him against pressure defenses can be painful.
Gary Browne and Aaron Brown did not progress as sophomores this season. Aaron Brown does not shoot well and is not a fundamental pillar of strength.
Aaric Murray only started 11 games and was continually being shown he was not the boss or going to be the boss on any Huggins-coached team.
Huggins had a continuous search for a reliable player rotation. He could never settle on a starting lineup. Continuity was always a problem. The only players looking comfortable were the ones going in their own direction. Those thinking about what the team was doing never found a free-flowing rhythm where they played instinctively without hesitation.
The mundane shooting statistics from 2012-13 had WVU making only .408 of its field goal attempts and .316 of its three-point tries. Brown, Browne, Hinds and Staten were the worst offenders. And they are guards for the most part.
Huggins has four recruits that should report next year. All are listed as power forwards. All are at least 6-foot-8. All weigh from 200 to 225 pounds.
One of them might be complete with offensive, defensive, rebounding, and knowledge-of-the-game skills. That would be 6-foot-9, 225-pound Devin Williams from Montverde Academy in Florida.
Brandon Williams (Grady, Ga,), Nathan Adrian (Morgantown) and Elijah Macon (much traveled and playing last season at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire) are not going to raise West Virginia’s win total in Big 12 games.
Huggins scheduled non-conference games this past season against Marist, VMI, Duquesne, Oakland, Radford and Eastern Kentucky as wins, but then Duquesne defeated the Mountaineers.
What will the non-conference schedule look like next season?
There will probably be another tournament in November or early December to preceed the Big 12 schedule of 18 games.
The bottom line in wins and losses was a disappointment.
The bottom line in attendance at the Coliseum also took something of a beating. Only six home dates drew more than 10,000 fans. The average attendance was 8,752 for 14 games. That figure is somewhat skewed by the awful weather on several of those dates.
One particularly bad-weather night came against Texas in early February when 4,966 came to the Coliseum.
The Big 12 schedule will not be any easier.
Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kansas State could all lose a freshman to the NBA draft in June. But Texas and Baylor will be doing the same soul-searching West Virginia is undergoing. Those two teams are bound to show improvement over what they had in 2012-13.
It’s up to West Virginia to improve. The rest of the Big 12 won’t be willing to settle for the status quo.
Huggins never had a season while at Cincinnati or Kansas State that even resembled this last one. He will be looking at all aspects of his team. Assistant coaches, leader of basketball operations, 10 possible returning players, four incoming recruits, number of home games and the entire non-conference schedule will be evaluated.
A 13-19 record gets everybody’s attention.
And nobody wants to endure such a hardship again.