Has the Bob Huggins honeymoon ended?
The short answer: probably not. This coach of 600+ career wins deserves the right to weather a slump or two without too much question. Still, through 16 games, this Mountaineer team seems to have many more questions than answers. The talent is certainly present to justify the pre-season top 10 ranking. The execution? Not so much.
The Mountaineers own a losing record in 2010, with two wins over terrible teams and less than encouraging losses to Purdue (who has recently soiled its bed), Notre Dame, and Syracuse. In each game, there have been extended periods of the game where West Virginia has looked utterly lost. Sure, shooting has been cold, but it's not just that the shots aren't falling -- execution as a whole is down.
So what is the problem? Here is just a sampling of the questions surrounding this team:
- The lack of a point guard. Truck's reliability rating is non-existent, and Mazzulla is playing with one arm, which makes him neither an inside nor outside threat. So, at the #1 position, we have a walking turnover and a character from The Fugitive. Not good. It's an indictment of Huggins, surely, that in the third year of his tenure here, we are nearly void of options at arguably the most important position on the court. Cleveland State almost pressed us off the court -- think what Louisville could do...
- Devin Ebanks may already be in the NBA, or at this rate, the NBDL. Ebanks must really enjoy Morgantown, because instead of playing himself into a sure lottery pick, Ebanks has looked like he needs another two years in college ball. His disappearing act throughout most of the season has been the biggest head-scratcher. I still have the exact details surrounding Ebanks' leave of absence, but it has continued into January. The only difference is now it's happening on the court.
- Casey Mitchell sucks. Huggins is guilty of revving up the hype machine on this one. Sure, he qualified it by saying Mitchell would be hot and cold, but we've known very little other than cold. And I think it's going to be difficult to blame global warming for this one, though I've been wrong before. He might turn it around, but it seems Dalton Pepper has permanently taken his spot. I think it's time for Huggins to stay quiet about players that haven't seen the court yet. Along with Mitchell, that goes for Kilicli as well. Why needlessly raise expectations on newcomers?
At the end of the day, these faults rest at the feet of Huggins, who has assembled a roster of immense talent and spotty dedication and performance.
So where do we go from here? Well, the schedule certainly doesn't get any easier, with a very dangerous trip to Charleston looming on Wednesday. Marshall is a good team, but a loss this week would confirm a true tailspin of sorts for the Mountaineers. Sure, it wouldn't be the end of the season, but with player confidence (especially Truck and Ebanks) already in a deep valley, it's the last thing we need.
Hopefully, Huggins can turn it around. Or the honeymoon may really be over.