Six games into the season — and six wins into the season — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins readily admits that he and his coaching staff are still tinkering with their lineup and player rotations.
So expect that tinkering to continue Sunday when the Mountaineers (6-0) host Rhode Island (5-2) at 2 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum (AT&T SportsNet).
Despite his team’s success so far, which includes a championship earlier in the week at the four-team Cancun Challenge in Mexico, Huggins knows that his youthful players still haven’t grown into any respective roles.
“I’m not so sure we have defined roles,’’ Huggins said Saturday during a teleconference. “We’re playing 12 guys and we want to take a look at different guys who have played multiple positions. I don’t think their roles have really changed. ... We’re trying to figure it out like everybody else.’’
Huggins said his rotation of low-post players is the team’s most settled position, with the lead roles being handled by 6-foot-10 sophomore Derek Culver, 6-9 freshman Oscar Tshiebwe and 6-7 sophomore Emmitt Matthews.
“I think the front line is pretty well set,’’ Huggins said, “with Derek, Oscar and Emmitt. Logan [Routt] has been coming off the bench his whole career, and he’s very comfortable with that. Gabe [Osabuohien], I think, is comfortable coming off the bench. Those guys, I don’t have to worry about integrating them with the rest of the team.
“We’ve got a lot of guys on the perimeter, and we need a lot of guys on the perimeter ... our guards we keep bumping until we find someone who is playing OK.’’
Seven guards have seen appreciable playing time in the first six games — starters Jermaine Haley and Jordan McCabe and reserves Miles McBride, Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, Chase Harler and Brandon Knapper. Haley averages nearly 25 minutes of playing time per game, McBride 22 and the others between 9 and 15.
With so many backcourt players in the mix, Huggins hopes his team can improve its transition offense. The Mountaineers currently average 72.5 points per game; they haven’t finished a season with a lower scoring average since the 2012-13 averaged 66.1.
“I think our big guys, because they do run so well, I think they can put pressure on other people’s bigs,’’ Huggins said. “The problem is we’ve got to get those other guys to run — those other guys who should be running because there are so many more of them — so that we can continue to sub and keep people fresh.
“Our bigs are running, but the other guys are not running to the lane, or they’re running to the 3-point line and stopping, which is not helping our bigs any.’’
Rhode Island of the Atlantic 10 presents a guard-heavy attack, with its top three scorers all coming out of the backcourt — 5-10 junior Fatts Russell (19.6 points per game), 6-3 senior Jeff Dowtin (15.0) and 6-6 sophomore Tyrese Martin (10.7). They’ve combined to sink 30 of the team’s 37 field goals from 3-point range through seven games.
“They are really good,’’ Huggins said of the Rams’ guards. “Are they the best we’ve faced? They very well could be. [Russell and Dowtin] can both score at all levels, and they can all finish at the basket. Both can put it on the floor, and both can do it from deep. They’re pretty well-rounded on offense.’’
The Rams can also force mistakes, with opponents averaging nearly 16 turnovers per game. In a 93-79 home win against Alabama on Nov. 15, Rhode Island forced 22 turnovers and scored 33 points off them.
“To a degree [they’ll speed you up],’’ Huggins said. “They’ll go to a 1-2-2 [press] or a 2-2-1 a little bit. They run and jump, primarily when they’ve been behind. They’re so guard-oriented they’re going to play a little fast.’’
Tshiebwe leads a balanced WVU lineup in scoring (12.5) and rebounding (9.8). Other top scorers include Haley (11.3), Matthews (10.0) and Culver (8.8).
“We’ve got a lot of things we could get better at on both ends of the floor,’’ Huggins said. “What’s even better about it is that they understand that.’’