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What I Think About WVU Basketball After Losing To Stephen F Austin In The 2016 NCAA Tournament

The Mountaineers season ended early this year after a shocking defeat at the hands of the Lumberjacks. After allowing the realities of the defeat to set in, I've assembled my thoughts on this particular defeat.

Stephen F Austin out-hustled and out-played the #3 seeded Mountaineers on Friday
Stephen F Austin out-hustled and out-played the #3 seeded Mountaineers on Friday
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
1. I think it is inexcusable that the team overlooked the Lumberjacks

I understand in high school when this happens. Brash 17 and 18-year olds thinking they can just waltz into a game and win is nothing new. I do not understand how a team the caliber of West Virginia, who needed every ounce of motivation all year, chose to overlook their first round opponent. The Mountaineers were not ranked when the season began, despite bringing back most of the roster from last year's team, 4 of 5 starters, and making the Sweet 16. The players used this as motivation open the season on a tear and even defeated #1 Kansas in Morgantown.

Not all of the blame falls onto the shoulders of the players. Coach Bob Huggins is paid handsomely to win tournament games. He absolutely needs to be held accountable for not being able to convey the magnitude of the upcoming game and finding a way to get the players to take the game seriously and practice with a purpose.

2. I think this was the worst time for our deficiencies to show up

Despite the fact that the team chose to overlook the Lumberjacks, West Virginia was able to handle the SF Austin in the first half. WVU imposed its will early and held a lead for a large portion of the first half. I kept thinking to myself, "If the team can just get to halftime with a lead, they can impose their will, start wearing down SFA and pull away with closer-than-should-be victory." But then the team couldn't hit a three. They couldn't drive the lane. All of the old foul problems started to creep into the game. As the buzzer sounded on the first half, the mood went from cautiously optimistic to impending dread.

In the second half, WVU made some adjustments. They finally learned to drive the lane and initiate contact if the refs are calling the game time. Paige and Williams drew fouls and put the Thomas Walkup's in foul trouble. They were 14-15 from the free throw line and then that went cold. All of the problems this team has faced over the season: Foul Trouble, Poor Shooting which lead to the inability to set up the Press, Not Generating Turnovers and Turning the Ball Over. All of that resulted in a first round exit.

3. I think for a team that prides itself on toughness, they do get punked more than they should

The exact same scenario played out in WVU's game against Florida. Florida got in WVU's face early, even in pre-game and threw the Mountaineers off their game. The Gators refused to back down from WVU early and the Mountaineers withered.

Then a repeat happened on Friday. SF Austin took WVU's early punches and delivered some of their own. When things didn't go their way, WVU chose to wilt under the pressure while the Lumberjacks rose to the occasion. The old adage has always been that pressing teams don't like to be pressed. That is a stupid adage because no team likes to be pressed. The better saying is that pressing teams don't like to deal with adversity. WVU only had one game this year where they faced adversity and fought their way back to win. That was against Texas Tech in Lubbock. Every other game, if WVU got down early, the game was over. If WVU lead early, they likely were going to come away victorious. They withered against Virginia in the early part of the season, withered against Texas, twice! And withered against The Lumberjacks on Friday. WVU needs to improve its ability to face and handle adversity

4. I think Devin Williams showed real leadership after the game

"As a unit, as a team, we did have a bad practice," said junior forward Devin Williams. "Three of them."

Those three straight bad practices gave the Mountaineers "a bad feeling" heading into the game, with Williams pointing to regular season losses to Texas and Oklahoma as games that had similar feels leading up to tipoff.

"We practice how we play," said senior guard Jaysean Paige. "We practiced like crap and we played like crap. We overlooked them and they came out and got us."

Although neither Paige nor Williams could find their shot (a combined 7-of-23 from the floor), both seemed to be focused on the game, putting forth effort on both ends of the court. For his part, Williams says he was fully prepared for the game and didn't take the Lumberjacks lightly, but "as a unit, as a team," the Mountaineers did.

"I was focused because I understand that if you don’t prepare, you’re out, but it has to be more than me," said Williams. "...I don’t want to be the bad guy because I love everybody on this team, but we got a lot of guys in here crying, and if they would have put most of that energy out on the court, we would have been walking away (with a win). We underestimated them. That’s pretty much what it was. They punched us in the mouth." - / Chris Anderson

I bolded a portion of the quote because that is the important piece. Devin is calling out his teammates here and we could speculate who were the culprits, but instead of naming names, Devin drops a piece of advice for everyone. If you were this caught up and emotional because we lost, then you should have put that effort in during the practices.

The fact that Devin showed leadership is important because it is being reported that he will return for his senior season. If this is true, Devin may have just grown up enough to lead this team vocally and therefore keep them from getting into these funks that seem to plague the Mountaineers from time to time.

5. I think I feel really bad for Jaysean Paige and Jonathan Holton

So far this article has been pretty negative. The team lost and I'm frustrated so that tends to happen. Still, despite being frustrated the team chose to take the game lightly, it should be said that these kids loved playing and loved this school. After the game, Holton and Paige had to come to the realization that they just played their final college game and it was a first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament. Not everyone gets to ride out into the sunset like Peyton Manning, John Elway, Jerome Bettis and Michael Strahan. Sometimes, its a cold shower of reality that sets in and you are left with "If I had just ....."

6. I think the Big 12 now has a perception problem

Over and over and over and over again, pundits claimed that the Big 12 was the best basketball conference in the nation. They aren't wrong. All of the advanced stats bear out the fact that the Big 12 is the best conference. The conference has numerous wins over conferences, owns the best RPI of any conference and has the overall #1 seed in the tournament. The conference was able to get 70% of its teams into the NCAA tournament. Still, the conference saw four of its seven teams get upset in the first round. The other three made the Sweet 16 and Kansas still has a legitimate shot at the championship, yet every narrative focuses on the fact that 4/7ths of the conference couldn't get out their own way on Day One. I would not expect that narrative to change. Last year saw 4 Big 12 teams lose in the Opening Round and Kansas fell asleep at the wheel in the Round of 32. Only WVU and Oklahoma made the Sweet 16 last year. Only Kansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa State made the Sweet 16 this year. If all three lose on the second weekend, the narrative for the Big 12 becomes an over-rated chant.