Does WVU miss Murray?
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind while trying to rationalize the notion that both West Virginia and Aaric Murray are better off without each other:
Of course, that doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface, especially from the West Virginia side of things.
Consider that the Mountaineers, who close out their non-conference schedule Saturday in Charleston against William & Marys, seem to have a more-than-adequate perimeter game, but are relying almost exclusively on freshmen in the middle and all along the baseline. And it was in mid-summer that Bob Huggins basically insisted that Murray, his best player both in the middle and all along the baseline, find another address.
To say that the Mountaineers have struggled at those spots while slogging to a 7-5 record would be an understatement. Freshmen Devin Williams and Brandon Watkins are growing into solid inside players, but it will take more time. Nathan Adrian and junior college transfer Remi Dibo have had their moments in stretching interior defenders with their shooting, but not consistently.
Meanwhile, Murray is averaging 24.5 points and seven rebounds for Texas Southern. Last week he had 48 points in a win over Temple in his hometown of Philadelphia. To think that Murray could not have helped West Virginia is foolish. He could have helped a lot.
Here's the thing, though: Murray could have helped a lot last year, too. But for the most part he didn't. It was the same way during Murray's first two years of college, which he spent at La Salle. He could have helped a lot more there than he did.
But Murray, be it because of his attitude or his drug use (both alleged and documented) or whatever reason, was never the player he could have been at La Salle or at WVU. La Salle's coaches got rid of him first, then Huggins got rid of him.
That Murray is doing as well as he is now at Texas Southern is probably due most to his own realization that he's messed up so many times that he can't afford to do it again.
Would he have made the same realization in Morgantown? Perhaps. But he hadn't made it yet, so the Mountaineers had to move on. They are better off without Murray's issues and he's better off at the end of the line and forced to shape up.
But, boy, would a focused Murray have been a help to West Virginia.
Speaking of potential help, Huggins was asked the other day if there was anything he could do to solve his team's rebounding issues. The Mountaineers haven't won the rebounding battle in any of their five losses this season.
Of course, Huggins had hoped to have that problem addressed. Not that it would have made a difference, but when Huggins sent Murray on his way he thought he had Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon, in addition to his other frontcourt newcomers.
Neither, though, is eligible to play.
"If we got those two guys eligible,'' Huggins said, "that would help tremendously.''
And finally, I have to laugh sometimes at the utter disconnect that exists within at least a small but vocal segment of West Virginia's fan base.
It's primarily the faction that just hates everything that has happened at West Virginia in the past three years, from Oliver Luck to Dana Holgorsen to beer sales and basketball reseating and exorbitant contracts and, of course, the dreaded move to the Big 12.
It's that last part that's so silly. They cry about Luck moving the school from the comfortable Big East to its new digs in the Midwest and insist that had he only waited the ACC would have come begging, which is the pipe dream of all pipe dreams. Some now complain that WVU will forever be also-rans in the Big 12 - particularly where football is concerned - be it because of distance or finances or merely because Oklahoma and Texas and Baylor and their like aren't Connecticut and Pitt and Louisville and their like.
And yet many of those same people who complain that West Virginia is in over its head in the Big 12 also want to get rid of the football coach who after two seasons of trying to prove them wrong is struggling to do so.
Listen, if you choose to be on the side that says Holgorsen should be fired because his teams have only gotten worse the last two years, from 10-3 in the last season of the Big East to 7-6 and 4-8 in the Big 12, fine. And if you choose to believe that West Virginia will never be more than an also-ran in that league, that's fine too. In either case, you're entitled to that opinion.
You cannot, however, be a member of both groups and insist that Holgorsen should be fired for not competing in a league that you insist WVU cannot compete in. Pick one or the other because, if not, you're just arguing with yourself.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.