MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Bob Huggins sat down late Wednesday night in the media room at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, looking for all the world like a man who, well, needed to sit down.He did, of course. Need to take a load off, that is.His West Virginia basketball team had just completed yet another of the wild swings it has made routinely this season, this time crashing to earth in the form of a 20-point loss at Baylor to abruptly end what had been the Mountaineers' most promising run of the season, a three-game winning streak in league play.Keep in mind that two-dozen games into this season - and 1,001 games into his career - not much surprises Huggins about the game. He's pretty much seen it all.
This team? Well, now that's a different story.This team of his, the one that will be hard-pressed not to become just the third one with a losing record in Huggins' 31-year career, can surprise anyone. So Huggins was asked if, in light of that winning streak and the perceived improvements his team was making, it surprised him to see an 80-60 loss to a Baylor team that is good, but quite frankly nothing special."Yeah,'' he said after giving the question due consideration. "Yeah, it does.''Then, though, there was an even longer pause while Huggins seemed to reconsider. He started to say as much, then stopped short"You know, it does and it ..." Huggins started, not really finishing the thought, but making it fairly obvious that he doesn't know what the hell is going on with this team sometimes.
That's the most frustrating thing for Huggins. He knows exactly what problems West Virginia has on the floor, whether it be guarding or shooting or taking care of the ball or whatever else might be the malady of the day. (At Baylor it was all of the above, by the way.)He knows how to fix them, too. Shoot, nothing this team does on the floor is anything new. These guys haven't invented new mistakes. Huggins has fixed them before and he will fix them again.But he might not fix them this year because of far and away the most frustrating aspect of this team. He can easily identify the mistakes and shortcomings, and after three decades he can almost routinely correct them. But he can't correct them with this team because unlike all his others - all of them, mind you, every single one - this collection just refuses to learn and adapt.For instance:
"You can't say 'Pass the ball' more than I do in practice every day, and we don't pass the ball,'' Huggins said, shaking his head. "Our most consistent shooter has been Eron Harris and we come down 3-on-1 and throw it to a guy who hasn't made a shot."Why? Why do you do that? I don't know.''
OK, so perhaps on the flip side it was just a bit of a glitch. That's possible, right? Show me a team that hasn't had a meltdown at some point during the season. There are maybe five of them out there."I don't think it's a confidence breaker. It's a bump in the road,'' sophomore guard Jabarie Hinds said. "We got blown out. It's not the end of the world. We've got another game on Saturday. We just have to bounce back.''"It's not easy, but you have to move on to the next day,'' Harris said. "You try to fix the problems, but it's in the past now.''True, but there have been too many of these meltdowns to pretend that this one was an aberration. This is a team that still hasn't beaten anyone in the Big 12 worth a nickel, and everyone that's not (WVU is 5-0 against the three teams below it in the standings and 0-6 against those above).The hope was that beating up on a compacted string of those bottom teams might give the Mountaineers confidence to face the better ones, who make up the rest of the schedule after Saturday's home game with Texas Tech.Going out and losing by 20 can't help that.
"I don't think it undid it, but it just lets us know that we have to stay focused,'' Harris said. "We have to move on to the next game.''And what that might bring? Well your guess might be as good as any, including Huggins."I don't know,'' Huggins said. "I don't profess to know.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.