CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- By now, most West Virginia University sports fans have written off the Mountaineer basketball team. Spring football drills are near and their interest has turned back to that sport.As the Mountaineer basketball team runs out the regular season, however, two questions have lingered.The first: How could WVU fall so far?As WVU coach Bob Huggins has said, there are myriad reasons, including poor shooting. Primarily, though, it boils down to this: Huggins wasn't able to get his players to listen, and those just aren't very good players.In addition, Huggins has had horrible luck when it comes to recruiting. Last year, 6-foot-9 power forward Elijah Macon, a four-star recruit, didn't qualify.From the 2011 class, Pat Forsythe, a 6-10 center, was injured and then went to Akron, where he averaged 4 points as a redshirt freshman for the 28-5 Zips. Tommie McCune was a wash. He went to Oakland University and was dismissed from that team.In 2010, Noah Cottrill, a highly regarded state star, was dismissed before WVU's first game. He played for West Virginia Wesleyan this past season and averaged 12.9 points. Darrious Curry, 6-6, was medically disqualified at WVU, went to Casper (Wyo.) College and then to Odessa (Texas) College after two cardiologists in Houston cleared him, despite Marfan's syndrome.Big man David Nyarsuk had trouble qualifying before ending up on Cincinnati's team, where he's averaged 2.9 points and 2.6 rebounds.In 2009, Dan Jennings joined the Mountaineers from Oak Hill Academy before moving on to Long Beach State, where he's averaging 9.2 points and 6.3 rebounds. Shooting guard Dalton Pepper moved to Temple, where he's struggled for the 21-8 Owls. He actually averaged more points at WVU - 3.9 - than this season at Temple - 3.0.One can only imagine if a few of those recruits panned out. Word is Pepper finally mastered Huggins' system before having to hit Philly and learn a whole new system. WVU could have used a comfortable, good shooter. Cottrill, under Huggins, could have flourished. Jennings and, perhaps, Forsythe could have helped.
But let's bring up the second question: What can be done? And let's tie it into the first question.Obviously, as Huggins admitted, he whiffed on some of the recruits that remained Mountaineers.One very well might be WVU's so-called star of that 2011 class: four-star Jabarie Hinds, who, so far, has proven to be anything but a four-star player.To this point, before tonight's game at Oklahoma, Hinds has been credited with 46 assists and 52 turnovers. That's a lot of turnovers. Also, though, one has to factor in that Hinds has missed many, many layups and easy shots. His shooting percentage is 33.8 percent, hitting 81 of 240 shots. How many of those missed bunnies were as bad as turnovers?Fellow guard Gary Browne has also contributed to the shooting woes, converting on 31.5 percent of his overall attempts and just 18.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. But at least Browne has more assists (46) than turnovers (39). And criticize Juwan Staten if you wish. He too was over-hyped. Clearly, he was not the Atlantic 10's best point guard when at Dayton. But he has 94 assists and 44 turnovers.
The Mountaineer guards also shared a flaw not as easily spotted. They simply could not efficiently pass the ball inside. Did you notice how easily the Kansas guards got the ball inside to center Jeff Withey during their mauling of WVU?Opposing teams have been able to play off WVU's guards. They've been able to give Deniz Kilicli fits inside. Yes, Kilicli can exhibit hands of stone - see his 60 turnovers - but better passes would have helped.Another factor in WVU's decline has been a lack of depth. That doesn't just show up in games, but in practices. With the luck of the aforementioned recruiting classes, one wonders how difficult practices have been. Better players make for tougher practices. Tougher practices make for better teams.So what will be done?Huggins has to wipe much of the slate clean. And word is, that will happen. Heading to Morgantown are two four-star recruits in Macon, who re-signed, and 6-8 Devin Williams. Also incoming are 6-10 Brandon Watkins and Morgantown High's Nathan Adrian.And there might be more. Word is, Mountaineers coaches haven't seen much to their liking in regard to junior college players, but accepting transfers is a definite possibility.
There are whispers Aaron Brown and Keaton Miles are looking at possible escapes to other schools. Volodymyr Gerun might land at, say, Fairmont State. Even the future of Aaric Murray, once touted as a one-and-done player, might be up in the air.Certainly, there will be a shakeup. Huggins needs guards that can at least pass the ball, if not shoot. He needs depth, not only for games, but for practices. He needs players that will listen and work hard.WVU's new practice facility should help attract all. Huggins' track record should attract all.Will there be a learning curve for the reshaped team next season? More than likely.But perhaps next season's Mountaineer team will improve.Unlike the one we witnessed this year.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.