Bob Huggins did not enjoy himself this year. Apart from the joy of watching Kevin Jones lead the league in scoring and rebounding, there was nothing but frustration. In particular, Huggs hinted of an entitlement mentality that pervaded his new core of players. Apparently Truck Bryant didn’t have the leadership capital to crack heads in the locker room either, because he even reflected that the coach spent too much time this season coaching the effort of the players.
The final game was a microcosm of the entire season. Many (including me) were worried we wouldn’t make the tournament, in spite of a 9-9 conference record and the lobbying efforts of our head coach. When the draw was announced and WVU was a #10 seed, I was shocked. What a gift. To add to our good fortune, we got to play up the street in Pittsburgh in front of thousands of our fans. The basketball gods were smiling on us.
So, how does a team that thinks they’re special just because they had the talent to get to a Division 1 program respond to this generous opportunity? With lackluster effort and result. Unfortunately, the seeding may have reinforced the notion that you can give a half-assed effort and still come out ahead. I fear that in spite of having the chance to play for Bob Huggins at a great school with a brand new, world class, basketball practice facility, these kids are going to think, "Of course they’re rolling out the carpet for me…I’m me."
Very simply, this team wasn’t very smart, wasn’t very hard working and ultimately wasn’t very good. All of which reinforces the opinion of most WVU fans that Kevin Jones was hands down the Player of the Year in the Big East. Can you imagine just how bad this Mountaineer Basketball team would’ve been in his absence? Well, we’re about to find out. As optimistic as I am about our football team’s chances of accomplishing great things in our first season of Big 12 action, I’m equally terrified at the prospect of this group of basketball players without KJ carrying them on his back.
The only things that give me hope are: (A) Huggins is a genius and has already started cleaning house and (B) we’re downgrading our basketball competition level a notch by moving into the Big 12. No offense to our new conference is intended – we’re really glad to be leaving the Big East. But basketball runs the conference and is its bread and butter – and one of the reasons we’re moving to a ‘football first’ association. And thank God that this basketball season (and the conference associated with it) is in our rear-view mirror.
After starting the season with unexpected success, these guys forgot that hard work and one great player were what got them to that point. Joe Gibbs, former Washington Redskins coach, said that dealing with team success is much more difficult than dealing with team failure. Success breeds apathy and entitlement. Failure creates desperation that produces a re-commitment to working hard to achieve. I hope he's right, because in spite of making the NCAA tournament, Coach Huggins would see this season as a failure in most respects.