The Bottom Line
By Bill Nestor
I can see it now! My toes planted firmly in the sand, a warm breeze at my back, and case of tunnel vision that is focused on the crest of some strong waves. That is my ideal vacation and that is just what I would conjure up if I had the opportunity to plan a getaway.
For the West Virginia University Men’s’ Basketball team a different vacation that included a championship effort was their break of choice.
The Mountaineers took part in the Puerto Rico Tip Off Tournament recently and the outcome could not have been better for Bob Huggins and his squad who had a chance to soak up some rays and wins. A three game win streak including a definitive win over defending national champion Connecticut provided the Eers with the title.
The first two wins of the season were less than impressive as the Mounties looked for chemistry and cohesiveness. They found both off shore averaging 79 points per game while allowing just 66 points per outing. They saved their best effort for last, holding a 15-point lead at the half against the Huskies en route to the double digit dismantling. Prognosticators far and wide had WVU as a distinct underdog in the tip-off finale. It seemed as if Huggins used that fact to fuel his team’s fire. The newcomers to the program received their first glimpse of the veteran mentor’s competitive edge, which appeared to motivate them in the win.
The talented newcomers add a level of depth that allows Huggins to crank up the heat defensively. In the opening game of the trip against George Mason and the finale with Connecticut the Mountaineers had double digits (11 and 10) players logging at least ten minutes of playing time. Against Boston College, nine players recorded thirteen minutes or more. Fresh players means more defensive pressure which leads to lower point production and fatigue for teams that just don’t have the level of depth that WVU currently owns. As players get tired they make mistakes. Case in point is the massive amount of turnovers that Mountaineers forced in San Juan. The Patriots, Eagles, and Huskies committed a combined 64 turnovers due to the intense defensive effort.
Another major benefit of a deep squad is that Huggins now regains leverage. If a player or players opt to deviate from the scheme issued by Huggs they will lose playing time and could be relegated to the bench. I’ve seen players collect dust from extended stints on the pine. As players work for playing time their level of play increases and the entire team benefits.
This group appears to be the most talented that Huggins has brought to Morgantown. If they develop at the rate that they have thus far then a first ever Big 12 Conference title and a return trip to the Big Dance could be on the horizon.
It’s fair to say that this excursion was a working vacation for the hoops squad, and that is exactly how Huggins wanted it.
That will do it for now. Until next week… take care and God Bless!