Postseason a Learning Experience for WVU Future - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Postseason a Learning Experience for WVU Future

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MORGANTOWN -

It's Selection Sunday. For the second-straight season, Bob Huggins is watching the bracket breakdown with decreased interest from what he grew accustomed to this time of year.

After being unceremoniously tossed from the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, the West Virginia men's basketball team has again fallen short of its goal to get to and compete in the NCAA Tournament.

There were opportunities to create a different outcome. Competing in the nation's best conference can do that for a team, and especially when that team faces three of the top four seeds in the league over the last four games of the regular season. But WVU couldn't capitalize on those opportunities, so it all came down to the action at the Sprint Center.

Needless to say, a 66-49 thrashing at the hands of the Texas Longhorns was not part of the plan. The Mountaineers did little to hide their disappointment that everything they had to play for slipped away Thursday night.
"It's really all I wanted," said a clearly dejected Terry Henderson. "I really just wanted to make the NCAA or win the Big 12 Championship. I'm not used to losing and I can't keep losing. I can't keep doing this."

Henderson had no shortage of wins during his prep career with Neuse Christian Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina. His team won the North Carolina 3A title each of his four seasons on the roster.

Now, the results are different. For the fourth year in a row, WVU is a one-and-done in its conference tournament and for two-straight seasons, the resume is not enough to go dancing.

With a 17-15 overall record, there are at least other tournaments available to the Mountaineers that were off the table with the 13-19 finish a year ago.

"Just the fact that we have a postseason this year is definitely a step in the right direction," said junior point guard Juwan Staten. "Last year, after the first game, we were done. We knew we were done. Now we know we're at least going to have some games left."

Kevin Noreen and Gary Browne are the only players on the roster who have experienced an NCAA Tournament game with the Mountaineers. The rest don't know what it feels like to go through the madness of March in the old gold and blue.

Mixed with that disappointment is the fact that a berth in the NIT likely gives WVU a better opportunity to play more games and get more experience heading into next season.

"Every game that we get to play together and build some more chemistry is definitely great for the future," said Staten. "Every game that our young players can get under their belt is definitely great for the future."

Henderson agrees that with such a young group, the planning for next season can begin right away with what is left of this one.

"We've really got to turn things around because we're not only playing for this year, the rest of this season, but we're also playing for next year," said Henderson. "We've got a lot of guys coming back and why not start now? Why not make that change now instead of waiting until next year?"

It isn't all just a chance to learn for next year, though. There is still something left to play for before this season is put to rest. Ask Da'Sean Butler, Joe Mazzulla and Wellington Smith – just freshmen for WVU back in the spring of 2007 – if their NIT Championship was nothing more than a springboard for the following season.

They held that trophy and wore those comically misspelled champions shirts with pride for what it represented for the present, not for the future.

Eron Harris is taking that mentality into whatever postseason path his Mountaineers set out on.

"We want to make some noise so we don't end the season on a bad note," said Harris. "We want to go out there and win it."

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