Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a continuing series previewing the 2013-14 Big 12 men’s basketball season and examining each of the 10 conference teams.
No. 7. West Virginia Mountaineers
Bob Huggins’ return to the Big 12 last season as West Virginia head coach was a lot different than what he remembered in his one season at Kansas State in 2006-07.
The Mountaineers lost their final seven games of the season a year ago and finished with a disappointing 13-19 record overall and a 6-12, eighth-place finish in the Big 12. “It was a big learning experience,” Huggins told reporters at the end of last season. And one I’m certain he does not want to repeat
After taking his team to the NCAA Tournament his first six seasons at West Virginia, as a member of the Big East Conference, Huggins watched the Big Dance from the comfort of his home last March. Last season’s losing record in conference competition was Huggins’ first as a head coach since his Akron team went 6-10 in the Mid-American Conference in 1985.
“This (the Big 12) is more of a penetrate-and-pitch league,” Huggins said last spring after the Mountaineers inaugural season as a member of the Big 12. “The Big East has classic 5-men (big post players). In the Big 12 people play smaller.”
To help rectify this situation, the Mountaineers’ roster in 2013-14 is back loaded, so to speak, with skilled backcourt players and ball handlers. Huggins had trouble last season finding the right combination of players on the court, which resulted in him using 12 players in starting roles throughout the season and only one player averaging more than 24 minutes a game.
Sophomore guard Eron Harris returns as the Mountaineers’ leading scorer (almost 10 points per game), and another freshman last year, Terry Henderson, fired in a team-high 40 percent of his three-point tries.
Huggins loses wide-body Deniz Kilici, but his 2013 recruiting class includes a couple of big power forwards, Devin Williams and Elijah Macon, who should help fill in the lost size down low.
Huggins is one of five Big 12 coaches who have logged more than 500 wins in their career. His 719 career wins leads all of them (Rick Barnes of Texas, Tubb Smith of Texas Tech, Lon Kruger of Oklahoma and Bill Self of Kansas).
Next up: Oklahoma