|No. 25 West Virginia|
By Gary Parrish | College Basketball Insider
Coach: Bob Huggins
Career record: 709-268 at Walsh, Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State and West Virginia
Best NCAA Tournament finish: Final Four 1992 (Cincinnati) Final Four 2010 (West Virginia)
Years at current school: 5
Last season's record: 19-14 (lost to Gonzaga in the Round of 64)
Notable returnees from last season: Deniz Kilicli, Aaron Brown, Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, Kevin Noreen, Dominique Rutledge, Keaton Miles
|Vital Info: No. 25 West Virginia|
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Notable losses from last season: Kevin Jones, Darryl Bryant
Notable newcomers: Aaric Murray, Matt Humphrey, Juwan Staten, Terry Henderson, Eron Harris, Volodymyr Gerun
Projected starters: G: Juwan Staten G: Jabari Hinds G: Matt Humphrey F: Deniz Kilicli C: Aaric Murray
Why this team will be good: The simplest answer to this question -- Why West Virginia will be good? -- is because Bob Huggins is still wearing a whistle and that man just doesn't ever coach bad teams, proof being the fact that he's missed the NCAA Tournament only once in his past 20 seasons as a Division I head coach. Huggins wins with great rosters and with mediocre rosters, and the guess here is that he'll also win with this really interesting roster featuring three impact transfers. Aaric Murray, a 6-foot-10 center, is now a Mountaineer after averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds as a sophomore at La Salle. He's likely to be joined in the starting lineup by two other first-year Mountaineers -- namely Juwan Staten and Matt Humphrey. Staten, a 6-1 point guard, averaged 8.5 points and 5.4 assists two years ago at Dayton. Humphrey, a 6-5 wing, averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 rebounds last season at Boston College. Those three combined with a veteran guard (Jabari Hinds) and veteran big (Deniz Kilicli) comprise a formidable first five.
Why this team might disappoint: Murray is talented and always has been. But he doesn't have the best reputation away from the floor, and it's just hard to know whether that will become an issue at some point this season. Put another way, I'm sometimes skeptical of teams whose best player has in the past clashed with coaches like Murray did at La Salle and been arrested like Murray was last December for possession of narcotics. Yes, the narcotic was only marijuana. But it's still a red flag of sorts, if only because getting caught shows a lack (or lapse) of judgement. The good news is that Huggins, given his history, is equipped as well as anybody to handle a player like Murray. So perhaps everything will be OK. But Murray's reputation remains a concern even if it's merely a minor concern.
Bottom line: Expect West Virginia to make an impact in its first season in the Big 12 and, perhaps, even challenge for a league title behind its frontline of Kilicli and Murray. No, the Mountaineers aren't as talented as Kansas or even Oklahoma State. But Huggins has good enough players to win at a high level, particularly if the transfers and freshmen buy in immediately and commit to guarding and rebounding the way Huggins' best teams have historically guarded and rebounded. What those teams lacked in pure skill they made up for in toughness and swagger, mostly because their coach demands it. Huggins will demand it again this season in his personal return to the Big 12. (You didn't forget that one season at Kansas State, did you?) And his players should come close enough to meeting that demand to make the Field of 68 with room to spare.
Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "I don't know their personnel real well because they weren't in our league last season, and some of their key guys are new anyway. But I know Huggs and what it's like to coach against a Huggs team. So they'll be tough. It's another marquee team for our league … and another Hall of Fame coach."