West Virginia lacks depth in 2nd Big 12 season
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP)
Having only six returning players doesn't give Bob Huggins much of a nucleus to build on at West Virginia.
It's no help, either, that some of his recruits will be unable to contribute.
Huggins is hoping the few veterans he has - none of them seniors - can help the Mountaineers improve on last season's eighth-place finish in the Big 12.
The six returnees averaged a combined 35 points, led by Eron Harris at 9.8 points per game. Terry Henderson averaged eight points and is the top returning 3-point shooter. Juwan Staten, the point guard and returning assists leader, is the only veteran who started more than 20 games last season.
Five of the returnees are guards.
''I think the bulk of our scoring is going to be from the perimeter,'' Huggins said. ''That's what we're good at.''
Gathering missed shots will be one of the biggest challenges.
West Virginia lost more than half of its rebounding total from last season. Kevin Noreen is the top returning rebounder at 4.4 per game.
The Mountaineers went 13-19 in 2012-13 - the worst in Huggins' 31 seasons as a head coach - and finished with a seven-game losing streak to miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years. Five players left the team after the season.
West Virginia won games or stayed close in others because of their defense. The offense misfired often and averaged just 66 points per game.
Henderson said the toughest part of last season was watching Huggins' disappointment time and time again.
''Hopefully we can get that under control this year,'' he said.
Here are five things to know about West Virginia, which opens the season at home against Mount St. Mary's on Nov. 8:
ROSTER SETBACKS: Before the season even begins, there already have been injuries and other issues. Junior college transfer Remi Dibo, a 6-7 forward, is out at least three weeks after undergoing knee surgery earlier in October. Recruit Elijah Macon has been bothered by a wrist injury that could keep him out. And forward Jonathan Holton, a transfer from Palm Beach (Fla.) State Community College, is eligible to practice and play in scrimmages but not in games. Huggins hasn't disclosed the issue with Holton.
SCORING SCRIBE: Harris, a journalism major, interviewed some of his teammates on camera at Big 12 media day in Kansas City, Mo. This season he'd like himself to be the center of attention when the lights come on. While leading the Mountaineers in scoring in 2012-13, Harris had some of his worst games against ranked opponents such as Kansas (two points), Kansas State (none) and Oklahoma State (six). ''I want to be more of a consistent player every night,'' the sophomore said. ''I want to be a better leader vocally and by example.''
YOUTH MOVEMENT: West Virginia's roster includes five sophomores and five freshmen. Among the available newcomers are forward Nathan Adrian out of nearby Morgantown High, 255-pound Cincinnati product Devin Williams, who could bring some needed inside help, and four walk-ons.
TOUGH TRAVELS: Huggins and his players complained about long road trips in the Mountaineers' debut season in the Big 12. That meant playing in the Central time zone, then returning to campus in the pre-dawn hours and sometimes struggling to go to class the next day. ''The travel was harder than what we thought it was going to be,'' Huggins said. This year the conference gave West Virginia a bit of a break, scheduling games at TCU and Texas Tech two days apart on the same road trip in early January. Several other road games later in the season occur on weekends.
EARLY SCHEDULE: The Mountaineers have plenty of nonconference tests, including home games against Gonzaga on Dec. 10 and Purdue on Dec. 22, and road tests at Virginia Tech on Nov. 12 and at Missouri on Dec. 5.