OF ALL the topics hit on in this space of late, the one that's touched a nerve has been that which centered on WVU's decision to exit the Big East early and play in the Big 12 next season.The opinion from here is the Mountaineer athletic department should live up to its word, its contract with the Big East, in regard to the 27-month notification period or settle without lawsuits. (I know, I know. A little late for that now.) Many readers responded by saying, basically, they don't have a moral dilemma with WVU taking a powder early and it's just business.There was the topic of WVU's loss to Louisville in football, dropping the Mountaineers to .500 within the Big East.However, when walking around downtown Charleston, the one topic I was most approached with this week was WVU's basketball loss in an exhibition game to Division II Northern Kentucky.
"What was that?" asked one Mountaineer fan. "I'd been thinking, 'Oh well, the football season is over, but at least I can turn to basketball.'"Losing to the Norse, though, doesn't instill much confidence in a Mountaineer basketball team heading into another (and possibly final) brutal season within the Big East.So a call was placed to WVU's Bob Huggins. His teams have suffered defeats in the past. His teams have suffered blowouts. But perhaps no loss has been this embarrassing."I'm OK," he said on Tuesday.He didn't choose to elaborate.Finally, though, Huggins pushed on."When you take Deniz [Kilicli, who missed the game because of a minor knee injury] out of the equation, that left us with two guys knowing what they were doing," Huggins said.The coach was referring to veterans Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant and then the large number of newcomers filling the roster."All we did was run motion," Huggins said. "And we did a very poor job of that. Normally, when we struggle, we go to sets. But I didn't want to do that."The result was NKU's Eshaunte Jones, a transfer from Nebraska, hitting a game-winning 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds to play, sending the announced crowd of 7,288 fans home from the Coliseum not only disappointed but stunned.Bryant indicated he expected the whole team to be worn out afterward on Huggins' dreaded treadmill.
"We had practice the next morning at 9 a.m.," said the coach. "We watched film for a long time. Then we went out and tried to fix some things."The question was posed: Was the practice different because the bulk of the team is so young?"Not really," he said. "Obviously, you've got to be a little more patient. But not really. It was pretty much the same."Losing an exhibition game, however, is not the same for Huggins. He's used to high-level success. In 2010, the Mountaineers were in the Final Four.Huggins was asked about Jabarie Hinds, the gem of his last recruiting class, who scored 10 points against NKU."Jabarie was like all the freshmen," Huggins said. "He started out nervous. None of them understand yet how hard we have to play and for how long. If you fall asleep, you get beat. They were all like that."
Bryant led WVU in scoring with 24 points and Jones added 22.Hinds and fellow freshman point guard Gary Browne had 10 apiece. No one else, though, had more than four points.At 9 p.m. Friday, the Mountaineers open for real at home against Oral Roberts."They've got their top seven scorers returning from last year," Huggins said. "They're pretty good - this year's version of what Oakland was a year ago."The Golden Eagles struggled as well, though, in their second exhibition, winning 65-59 over Northeastern State.But back to WVU."The difficult thing is we have a tough schedule," Huggins said."It's not like we're playing Prairie View or High Point. We're playing teams that are good. We have one of the hardest schedules of any BCS school."One web site, TeamRankings.com, has WVU with the nation's second-toughest schedule heading into the season, behind Connecticut."We have our work cut out for us," Huggins said.And the man on the street might have to be patient.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.