From the Cheap Seats: 'Tis the Season...for Mountaineer Basketba - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

From the Cheap Seats: 'Tis the Season...for Mountaineer Basketball

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A few weeks ago, I got a call from a friend and fellow Mountaineer fan. "Whatcha doing?" he asked. "Just sitting here watching the basketball team," I replied. "Oh, I didn't even know we were playing. It's too early to pay much attention to basketball," he said. From the looks of the Coliseum early this season, that seems to be a common belief. At least in my case, I guess when you've dropped a couple of paychecks on season tickets, you tend to be motivated to get into basketball mode. If anyone needed a personal invitation to basketball season, I hope they got it before Thursday night's battle with Kansas State.

What a win! For much of the long night, it felt like watching a tournament game. Save for Aaron Brown and his clutch three pointer, the freshmen didn't have the best evening. Despite that, just being involved in a game that intense, and seeing KJ and Truck step up the way they did, will go along way for the young players. I'm not suggesting that this is a Final Four caliber team, but the way we won reminded me a lot of the Final Four group. It wasn't the prettiest effort, but it was the effort and a clutch performance by a clutch player that got the Mountaineers the W. You hear Coach Huggins talk about effort and intensity and how the players don't play with enough of either for his liking, but you get the impression that his "not good enough" is more than fine for players on many other teams.

I think most fans understand what a special coach Huggins is, but it's games like this one that illustrate his basketball IQ. There are a lot of good coaches out there, who have a lot of good systems and schemes. The issue for many of those coaches though is that they're slaves to their own systems. If the other team is able to counteract their plan or if the player who makes their system go, is on the bench with foul trouble, they're done. Huggins has his stuff, but if he sees a way to win, he'll switch things up in a heartbeat. All season long, the emphasis has been on having the freshmen point guards, Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne, handle the ball and run the offense, allowing Truck to focus more on being a scoring guard. Against the Wildcats, the freshmen seemed overwhelmed by the Wildcats' defense and the arena's atmosphere, which resulted in turnovers and bad decisions galore. For much of the rest of the game, Truck slid back over to the point and turned the ball over only once.

It's not just what Huggs does with the players on the floor, but who he puts out there in the first place. In recent games, freshman Pat Forsythe has been getting more minutes at the forward position than the more experienced Kevin Noreen. Against Kansas State, Huggins saw that Noreen matched up better with the Wildcats big men, and he gave the Mountaineers 21 solid minutes, while Forsythe never saw the floor. During Huggins tenure in Morgantown, we've seen this kind of thing over and over again. A particular player might not get in the game for two or three contests and suddenly, when the match-up makes sense, that player comes in and makes a difference.

In the second overtime, when Huggins' protégé Frank Martin figured out our 1-3-1 defense, I screamed "get out of this zone!" I doubt Huggs heard me from my couch in Clarksburg, but the next time down the court, we were back to man to man. Apparently the guy creeping up on 700 wins didn't need my help.

When the Hurricanes blow into the Coliseum Saturday night, we'll find out if the March Madness-like will to win is still there for our young Mountaineers. In the meantime, I'm going to relish in another big national win that was the result of Huggins-taught toughness and hard work.

- On a side, but related note, it may take a while to develop football rivalries in the Big 12, it looks like we've got an instant rivalry on the hardwood with the Wildcats.

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