Big 12 Coaches Excited for Huggs, WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Big 12 Coaches Excited for Huggs, WVU


Bob Huggins puts little stock in his previous stint in the Big 12 being of any assistance to West Virginia in its first year of conference play.

"I know where to go eat," Huggins said this week at Media Day in Kansas City, "but it's changed."

A conference which has a misleading name still had 12 competing in the league when Huggins coached at Kansas State. The north and south divisions prevented his team from visiting all of the different campuses and experiencing the true regular season champion that a 10-team round robin allows.

Whereas Huggins and the Mountaineers would talk about the grind of the Big East before league play began since he returned to Morgantown in 2007, he is not quite sure what the message will be when that first Big 12 game against Oklahoma is on deck in January.

"You've got guys in this league that always win. They always win," Huggins says of the coaches in the league. "Give them good players, give them bad players, they always win. I think it's a great coaches league."

Those coaches, as many among them will point out, consist of five who have taken teams to the Final Four in their careers. Their successes have been well documented, but their experience against West Virginia is minimal.

Texas head coach Rick Barnes beat the Mountaineers in his only game against them with the Longhorns, but lost all four of the other times he coached against WVU. Those experiences in the past mean so little, though. What each of the coaches at Media Day pointed to when the team's name was brought up was Huggins himself and what they expect from the third-winningest active coach in Division-I hoops.

"When you think of Bobby Huggins, one of the great coaches, one of the great personalities in the game and a great guy," Barnes says.

"He's kind of that old school guy," says Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber. "We're all so worried about what everyone thinks of us and that – Huggs is Huggs and that's all he cares about."

Weber had a chance to face West Virginia overseas last summer when his Illinois squad beat the Mountaineers 47-26 in a quick, 20-minute scrimmage at the Aviano Air Base in Italy.

As Weber finished out his final season with the Illini, he was impressed by the production Huggins was able to get out of a young team that he had seen play so poorly together just prior to the year beginning.

"What he got out of them [in the season], I think, was amazing," says Weber. "I saw him recruiting somewhere near mid- to late-season and I think he felt pretty good about them. He was frustrated at times by them because they couldn't score, but he felt good about where they had come from the beginning to the end."

Another newcomer to the Big 12 this season, Texas Tech interim head coach Chris Walker has experience against Huggins and the Mountaineers as a member of Jay Wright's staff at Villanova.

He recalls a second half collapse in Philadelphia that propelled WVU to the Final Four back in the 2009-10 season and his own team's win in Morgantown on Big Monday earlier that same year.

Walker talks about the Hall of Fame being in Huggins' future and believes he brings a toughness and a grit to Big 12 basketball that may not already exist. He also feels like those who have not yet made the trip to WVU's campus are in for a surprise when it comes to the atmosphere for a game at the Coliseum.

"No one's enthusiastic about going [to Morgantown]," says Walker. "From a competitive standpoint, you're enthusiastic about going to Morgantown, but you look at that schedule and you don't really want to go to Morgantown, that's for sure."

Barnes, though, says he's looking forward to it, if for no other reason than to see how his players react to the Mountaineer firing his rifle off before the game.

"It's going to give us all east coast exposure, it's going to give us another great arena to go into," Barnes says, before pointing to his players and saying, "When that guy fires that musket off, these guys are going to jump."

The excitement of the unknown was evident when speaking with the coaches who will be game planning for Huggins' team twice a year as long as they share the same conference affiliation.

They know the man, and the team, to some extent, but this season, it will be taken to a different level.

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