Starting conference play 0-5 isn’t ideal, especially when that conference is the Big 12. The toughest, deepest league in the country where there are no gimme’s. Every win is earned.
That’s the unfortunate part about this struggling start for West Virginia. It’s not like being in the ACC where you hope to come across Louisville or Florida State to help get things turned around. Every game you’re playing a top 25 team or a team that’s ranked in the top 40 of the NCAA’s NET Rankings – it’s brutal.
As dark and gloomy as everything seems, there is still a lot of time for the Mountaineers to right the ship and make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
How you may ask?
Well, for starters, it goes back to the schedule. Yeah, it’s not fun to go up against quality teams night in and night out but what it does give you is several opportunities to secure wins over NCAA Tournament teams. If West Virginia finishes 6-12 or 7-11 in Big 12 play, that might be enough to get them in especially if one or two of those wins come against a highly-ranked team.
Secondly, you have to look at how close this team is to being 4-1. It comes down to the free-throw line. In five conference games, West Virginia is 87/143 (60%) from the charity stripe. Obviously, there are other things that they could have done better to help win games but this is the biggest outlier. If they make their freebies, they’re 4-1 in conference play, not 0-5.
Free throw shooting in Big 12 games
20/38 at Kansas State (L 82-76 OT)
17/28 at Oklahoma State (L 67-60)
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18/28 vs Kansas (L 76-62)
24/33 vs Baylor (L 83-78)
8/16 at Oklahoma (L 77-76)
“There’s a lot of things you can think about,” said head coach Bob Huggins when asked about the poor free throw shooting. I don’t know that any of them are the answer. I think the first thing people talk about particularly with guys that are or have been good free throw shooters, is fatigue. I don’t know. I mean, I’ve had guys before that played the whole game, every game. This is honestly a little bit of rust for us because we’re coming off of a game and then we didn’t do a whole lot the next day because I had to give them some rest. The NCAA says you got to give them a one-day-a-week rest. Well, they shouldn’t say that and let people schedule games in a two-day window before you play again.”
Lastly, it just takes time.
In today’s world of college basketball, your team is still learning how to play together more than halfway through the season thanks to each roster being littered with transfers. It’s one thing to have experience in general but having experience together, as a team, is something that can’t be matched. Not only are the players still figuring each other out, but Huggins is also figuring out the best lineups to go with which is why he remains optimistic.
“We’re getting closer. We’re not by any stretch the worst team in the league. We’ve had some things happen. We’ve had some things happen at the end of games. The Baylor game, for…
Read More: Time to Panic? Not Yet – Huggs Has a Word (or Two) for the ‘Doubters’ 2023-01-15 20:21:04