Stick a fork in them?
by Jim Buzzerd
So, how long am I going to keep writing about this version of West Virginia University men’s basketball? From what I can gather from a few fan sites on the web, WVU fans are tuning out in large numbers. Now, if one pays close attention to some of those who claim they are going to stop watching, you can find them on that same website after a game complaining about what they just saw. Hilarious, right?
Fans can be funny at times, but there is very little about this basketball team that is amusing. Well, maybe one could be amused by the comedy of errors that produced 20 turnovers in last Tuesday’s game against Iowa State. I guess that debacle could be laughed off because West Virginia managed to win that game 79-63 despite the turnovers and snapped a seven-game losing streak.
It was nice to get that win, but after Saturday’s 81-58 loss at Oklahoma State it appears WVU did not get any kind of boost from the ISU victory. The Mountaineers actually led the Cowboys 29-28 with 4:50 to go in the first half, but trailed by six points, 36-30, at halftime.
A second half collapse has become a common occurrence with this Mountaineer team and Saturday was no different. OSU opened the half with a 16-2 run to take a 20-point 52-32 lead 13:47 left in the game. Pretty much game over at that point, West Virginia could get no closer than 12 points the rest of the way. There was plenty to be disturbed about in this game, but nothing more than West Virginia’s lack of inside presence. The Mountaineers were outrebounded 48-24 and outscored 40-16 in the paint.
Roll the calendar back 15 months and head coach Bob Huggins expected to have Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe on the roster this season, as well as point guard Deuce McBride. For reasons not entirely clear, Tshiebwe left mid-season last season and is now a player of the year candidate at Kentucky. Culver elected to pursue a professional career and that has not panned out thus far. McBride was a second-round draft pick of the New York Knicks and is on an upward trajectory awaiting his turn on a team with several talented guards in front of him.
Those are obviously huge losses, but I guess it’s up to individual fans to decide whether to give Huggins and his staff a pass on the job done to fill those voids. Monday night West Virginia led Kansas State by 10 points at 54-44 early in the second half, but then went 10 minutes without a field goal while the Wildcats went on an 18-2 run and eventually led by nine points, 71-62 with 4:35 remaining. The Mountaineers got within one point but went scoreless over the final 2:28 and lost their ninth game out of 10 tries 78-73.
West Virginia is now 14-11, and from this seat, there is little reason to think they can salvage a winning record, they just have too many flaws. WVU would need to catch lightning in a bottle to get to the NCAA Tournament. Heck, they need to step up to get three more wins just to become eligible for the NIT.
Seven players on this team are out of eligibility after this season and they are getting the most minutes by a wide margin. That leaves WVU with six players that can return, but it is becoming more and more likely that some of them may hit the transfer portal. Any way you slice it Huggins has a massive rebuild for next season on his hands. Is it time to start the rebuild now and play the young guys more, a lot more?