We took a look at, TCU, one of the newest members of the Big 12 in our last article, now we will look at the second newest member, the West Virginia Mountaineers. They bring a rabid fan base, strong football and basketball programs and a strong commitment to non-revenue sports. West Virginia came to the Big 12 this season from the Big East where they were 9-9 in conference play and 19-14 overall. There road trips are really road trips in this conference because they have to change time zones, fly to about every game, and the closest Big 12 team is Iowa State which is still around 880 miles. If they took a bus there it would take them around 14 hours to get there.
So one big disadvantage for the Mountaineers is the travel, but this past Wednesday night in road trip to Austin to play Texas, WVU showed that they can win no matter how far they have to travel. Even though it took overtime to do it, the Mountaineers are now 1-1 in conference. Their first experience in the Big 12 was a home loss to Oklahoma by ten. They knew the Sooners because they lost to them by seven on Nov. 25 in the Old Spice Classic in Florida and they were hoping this time it would be a their first Big 12 victory.
So after watching both games we can determine what kind of impact they will have on the Big 12 this season. First of all they have a coach, Bob Huggins, who has coached in the Big 12 before. Huggins knows how to win on the road and at home. While he was the coach at Kansas State in 2006-2007 who went 10-6 in the conference that season. Huggins knows how to recruit and has proved it by bringing in very talented players like Bill Walker, Blake Young, Luis Colon, and Michael Beasley. In 2011, Huggins reached his 700th career victory, making him one of four Division 1 active coaches to do so. Huggins knows how to coach and will have lots of victories this season in the Big 12.
Second, is their home court advantage. Just as they have to travel far to play road games, teams have to travel far to play in Morgantown. I say this after they lose to Oklahoma at home in their first Big 2 game but butterflies may have led to this loss. Oklahoma is a well coached team and was ready to win when they came to town. It is hard to win on the road in the Big 12 plus when you have to travel far away its even harder.
The players are capable of shooting the rock and crashing the boards. Aaric Murray, is a rebounding machine and can shoot the rock. His only weakness is he gets into foul trouble. Huggins mixed up the starting line up against Texas and Kevin Noreen started. Noreen hit a three out of nowhere and had 13 boards. One of the biggest strengths of the Mountaineers is crashing the boards. Huggins said this about rebounding after the Texas game, “This is what we do,” “This is what I’m accustomed to seeing us doing. I wasn’t accustomed of seeing what they had been doing. If we play this way, we’re going to be all right.” One of the weaknesses of the Mountaineers is their bigs. “I don’t know that our bigs can play very long,” Huggins said of the decision to go with Noreen and Dominique Rutledge instead of Deniz Kilicli and Aaric Murray. “Down the stretch against Oklahoma we didn’t play well down so we will try to keep the big guys fresher, get them in and get them out.”
So what kind of impact will they have this season? If the game against Texas on the road says anything about the waves they will make this season, it will tell us that the other Big 12 teams better be on guard when the Mountaineers come to play. They will be either 4th or 5th in the conference this season. The team Huggins is looking forward to playing again is the Kansas Jayhawks, he was 0-3 against them while the coach at Kansas State. Huggins will get a chance to make it 2-1 in conference play when his former team, the Kansas State Wildcats come to town. Look for the Mountaineers be extra prepared to win their 1st Big 12 game at home.