Opinion

The secret behind WVU’s hoops success

Charleston Gazette photo by The Associated Press West Virginia coach Bob Huggins talks to his players during the second half of Saturday's win at TCU.
Charleston Gazette photo by The Associated Press
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins talks to his players during the second half of Saturday’s win at TCU.

A column by Charleston Gazette Sports Editor Mitch Vingle

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — You’ll have to forgive me.

There are moments in this job when I shift from columnist to basketball fan.

I don’t mean a fan of this team or that. I mean a fan of the sport.

And this West Virginia basketball team absolutely fascinates me.

If you’ve watched the Mountaineers this season, perhaps you know of what I write. They are deficient in so many areas, yet, well, terrific. They are 14-1 and ranked No. 14, yet no one can say with conviction they are an upper-echelon team.

As it stands, they are the ultimate must-see team. You find yourself transfixed, and now so more than ever. On Saturday, WVU hosts No. 17 Iowa State. Then in comes No. 16 Oklahoma, which destroyed No. 10 Texas — which the Mountaineers visit after the Sooners.

It’s great stuff, because much of West Virginia’s success makes little sense. And yet it makes complete sense.

Just look at the most recent NCAA stats. The Mountaineers foul more than spoiled milk. The team was ranked No. 319 of 351 teams in personal fouls at 21.5 per game. It is now at 21.8 after the Texas Tech win. That’s a foul every 1.8 minutes.

WVU can’t shoot. It was No. 207 in field goal percentage at 42.9 percent. (Now 43.2.) Its free throw percentage was ranked No. 233 at 66.4. (It’s now worse at 65.7.) Its field goal percentage defense was No. 265 at 44.4 percent, now down to 44.2. Its 3-point field goal percentage defense ranked No. 191 at 33.6, which is now worse at 34.9.

Yet these guys can play. And do. Hard.

There’s a method behind Bob Huggins’ madness…

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