MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia is not off to the start it wanted, but it has the opportunity to wipe away those woes with a big win over Kansas on Saturday.
Bob Huggins met with members of the media on Friday to give his thoughts ahead of the matchup. Here’s what he had to say:
Moving past the Oklahoma State loss
Friday’s media session began with an opening statement by guard Erik Stevenson, who fouled out of both games on the road trip with the help of a technical foul. Huggins was visibly frustrated on Monday with his leading scorer’s performance after the game and made sure to let fans know how he felt in his postgame press conference.
Both men appear to be moving on from that incident before Kansas arrives at the Coliseum. Stevenson apologized on Friday, stating that his conduct was not representative of the program. Huggins struck a similar tone in his own press conference and was ready to move on from the incident.
“He’s a good kid, he just gets a little carried away sometimes, and truth be known, we’ve all done dumb things and we’re all at least fairly intelligent people that make mistakes,” the coach said. “He made a bad mistake, so you acknowledge it and move on.”
Scouting the Jayhawks
The next step is to take on the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks, the top team in the league, in front of a sold-out crowd at the WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers, of course, have quite the history with the Jayhawks. They’ve enjoyed quite a bit of success against them in Morgantown over the years in WVU’s Big 12 era, but outside of their home building, they haven’t been able to notch a win. Sometimes, even that homecourt advantage isn’t quite enough to take down KU.
“Yeah, you’ve got to beat them, but you need some breaks, too,” Huggins said. “That was probably as well-put as I can make it.”
WVU might need some breaks on Saturday in Morgantown, as the “basketball gods” have blessed the Jayhawks in both of their Big 12 games this season. They have come through two games unscathed in their records, but both wins have come right down to the wire, each by fewer than two possessions.
Such is life in the best league in college hoops, though, and KU remains one of the favorites for a repeat national championship run. A lot of guys from last season have left, but Bill Self’s squad hasn’t seemed to miss a step this year.
“It’s kind of like Bill’s got a four-leaf clover in his pocket. He got those two guys a year ago (Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun) that are both pros now that, they weren’t even being recruited by people….Gradey Dick was the same way. They got him late.”
Dick is one part of KU’s formidable backcourt, leading the team in three-point shooting as an in-state product.
Analyzing the stout Big 12
WVU, once again, won’t have it any easier for the rest of the season. The Big 12 is rated the toughest league in college hoops as teams repeatedly knock each other off.
As Huggins noted, even Baylor, which lost both of its Big 12 games so far, stayed alive in the AP Top 25 despite the defeats. WVU did slip from the rankings, but still received votes.
The most telling metric for this feat is the league’s average NET ranking, which sits at 28.6.
“That’s far and away the best. The closest to that is 60.1,” Huggins said. “That means we’re playing in the best league in America, against the best people in America that are coached by the best coaches in America, and we’ve had every opportunity to win and we didn’t finish the games. That’s on all of us.”
The strength of the league is not an excuse for WVU’s recent woes, Huggins added. In his words, he “detests” losing.
“I’ve never been a loser, I’ve never accepted losing. I mean, I was raised that way,” Huggins said. “I think, unfortunately, there’s nine other guys who probably feel the same way I do.”