Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which likes to think it’s better now than it was at this time last year. That, of course, is our conversation starter for the weekend.
And what a weekend! WVU v. Marshall in the Capital Classic, which we at charlestondailymail.com have ably covered. There’s also the potential for an Ugly Christmas Sweater Press Row. You know Jack Bo will have one. Others have been challenged. Coyle is going to participate, but then go into a phone booth and change for his televised spots … which I think is weak. Not how I roll.
— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) December 7, 2013
Anyhow, about these Mountaineers. The 2012-13 season was a bad one for Bob Huggins and his sixth West Virginia team. This is a fact, not my opinion, and something the coach and the players have made perfectly clear many times already this season, which is one of the sneaky story lines so far. By the sounds of it, last season was just unbearable for anyone who had to experience it. Now, it’s unlikely it was that bad, and time does funny things to the way people remember and recall things, but they sure have thrown some mud at last season.
When you combine that with the failures of the football season, you put a lot of … pressure? … on Huggins and his seventh WVU team. Early on, it worked nicely, even if no one was showing up to witness it. You had a likable group of players and one who’d really taken it upon himself to get better than he’d let himself be a year ago. The ball was going up more and going in more and we were reminded points are fun and usually useful.
And everyone was probably a little too excited. I don’t know if it’s wanting too much too soon or some sort or syndrome attached to going 4-8 in football, but losses to Wisconsin (No. 4 now, by the way) and Missouri (No. 24 now, by the way) were seen as missed opportunities. That was before a Gonzaga team that’s ranked No. 20 and has taken WVU’s number and beaten the Mountaineers over the head with it twice in the past 21 months played very well on the road to snatch a win.
Break down those losses any way you want — Virginia Tech remains a bad loss, even though the Hokies are not terrible — but you walk away with this: WVU is 6-4 after 10 games.
A year ago, the Mountaineers were 5-5 after 10 games.
A loss to Marshall Saturday in the Capital Classic leaves this team 6-5, the same mark the eventual 13-19 team had a year ago. That’s, at worst, interesting.
“It’s not a fair indication,” junior forward Kevin Noreen said. “I don’t know what the numbers were last year, but I’m sure the scoring differential in some of the losses was a lot greater than what it has been this year. Some of the losses we had last year, we kind of gave up. I don’t think you’ve seen this team give up yet.
“We’re getting there, but we’ve got to get a lot better.”
That they do, because while the schedule is tricky from here on out, WVU still has a chance to get right and get on a roll. It’s not asking a good team a lot to win the next five. But WVU hasn’t won five in a row since basically the same time in the 2011-12 season. Only Kevin Noreen was playing. Juwan State was sitting out and watching. WVU’s best streak since are some modest three-game runs.
Can this team do it? Can it run the rest of the non-conference schedule, bank some quality practices during the winter break and then nab back-to-back road games against TCU and Texas Tech? Answering that answers this: Is this team better than it was a year ago? The numbers say “Yes, kind of,” but time will tell you the most.
Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, think before you cheat.
i like this team BUT
it’s still early
if the team stays on the winning side of the ledger and has a reason to play, there’s no reason to not fight, but what if a losing streak mounts – like last year?
that being said, I do believe the H’s are starting to lead – although Henderson is pressing and taking ill-advised shots.
I wonder if this young team is intimidated by better talent? Staten not taking on a big on a dribble drive, and step back jumpers and threes are the signs of a team afraid their shots gonna come back in their faces.
It’s a big obstacle – mentally – really in the gut – to believe you can play with and beat the big boys. You can verbalize it and believe it in practice, but in the heat of the game, doubt can seep in. This team needs to beat a big boy in order to believe they can beat a big boy. And it needs one of those signature wins at home (Gonzaga?) and then on the road because those are two different animals as well.
they have yet to ascend a mountain of substance.
that VT loss – which should have been a win – could have really changed the trajectory early in the season
this is a young team. early missed shots on wide open jumpers tells me the team isn’t ripe yet. it’s tight and the game is so mental.
i like that this team has fight and looks like it can hit some shots.
i like the renewed work effort
i like the depth
i like that the team is beating who they should
they’ve got to hold serve at home (against Kansas, OSU, Iowa State and Baylor?) and then steal some away – TALL task for a team with no height.
That fifth paragraph is intriguing. I’ve wondered the same thing from time to time, almost like a scouting report told them to be aware of this or that, and then when this or that pops up, WVU reacts oddly. The Gonzaga game was good and bad in that regard. I thought WVU pushed certain buttons early and found success and felt pretty good about its chances. Then when the Bulldogs started to toughen up some of those soft spots, it seemed WVU was a little spooked. Then again, that’s not unique to WVU, and truth be told, WVU played about six minutes of so-so basketball that night.
This team shoots it good enough to win games without being dominant on the boards. As long as the opposition isn’t playing volleyball on the glass until they score we’ll be okay. They will probably take a couple of beatings and lose a game or two that they shouldn’t when the shots aren’t falling. They also will probably win a couple they have no business winning when shots are falling.
This year’s team will get better as the season progresses simply because they listen. A return to postseason play – of any sort – will be a success. They are certainly capable.
I guess my response to that is this: Where is this team getting better? I know it is better than it was last season, and I think it’s silly on some level to compare last year to this year, but inside of this season, where are the Mountaineers getting better? The losses have all followed a similar sort of pattern. Free throw shooting is still off. They don’t rebound it better or guard better than before — at least not dramatically. There is still no inside presence. Adrian is back to earth. Watkins has seen his minutes slide. Dibo has one very good dimension. It’s not a critique. It’s a question. It’s great to be able to listen to instructions, and I get your point, but where will this team apply those instructions? I think that’s what makes these next five games and all the practice time so important.
In all candor, we looked like a junior varsity team vs Mizzou most of the game and we only came back after they lost their edge.
Using last season’s team as a benchmark of any kind is a joke, imo. Bury that team to history and don’t speak of them again.
To take any consolation in losing to Mizzou by 9 is a very good indication of how far we have fallen.
The Final Four team is my benchmark and we’re not close. We’ve got a few guys w decent talent who play hard, I hope they can keep positive attitudes until the Calvary get her
Spot on with Missouri. That game was on a Thursday night. The Tigers played host to UCLA at noon two days later. I think it’s safe to say Frank Haith wanted to slow things down a bit. That ending only mattered for WVU’s flight home.
What ever happened with the other two recruits i.e Macon and I believe Herndon or something like that. Just two wasted scholarships or do they have a future at WVU and when?
Macon is a partial qualifier who can’t practice or play this season. He sits in the stands adjacent to the bench for home games. I guess he’s got a bad wrist, but the timing of that revelation was curious, to say the least. Holton is something nobody has ever explained to us, apart from the fact he’s eligible to practice, but not play. Huggins told us in the preseason that Holton’s situation was not one that would allow him to be eligible to play in the second semester. This team is markedly better with Holton and even better with Macon.
Baylor’s punter Spencer Roth makes first team all conference? Boomstache should be pleased with his 2nd team selection, but he had 7 games where he had to punt 7 times or more; Spencer Roth punted 7 times TOTAL through October 11th.
It’s quality, not quantity. I guess. All-conference teams all reach a certain point where they become a muse.
hey Mike, why don’t you get a vote?
I don’t vote in the AP poll. The folks who vote in the AP top 25 get to pick all-conference teams for the conference they cover (I think). I have zero interest in voting for the top 25. Have turned it down before because I doubt I could accurately and consistently discern between Nos. 16 and 26 and I wonder if many people can accurately name the third-best offensive tackle in the conference. There’s got to be a better way … and it sure ain’t the coaches.
Craig Bohl moved from NDSU to take the head job at Wyoming.
Reminds me of the time I got promoted from dish washer (and a very good one at that) to prep cook at the Chestnut Pub.
Bobby Heenan said:
Mike – I’ll put this here, I hope it’s an appropriate place….
In the off season articles about football I would LOVE to hear the coaches thoughts about position changes on the defense – specifically in the defensive backfield. Do they see Dravon, Worley, and/or Nana as free safeties or cornerbacks? Will be be trying Joseph at Strong Safety (Cook’s old position).
In addition, do we anticipate moving Isiah Bruce back inside? He seemed awfully quiet and appeared to have a lower snap count this year.
Another topic I would like to read about is man-to-man versus zone defense at the corners. Dana mentioned in one press conference how he seemed ?surprised? that this trend of more man to man and taking risks with guys out on islands has permeated the big 12 defenses. Teams did this to us a bunch, and it seemed other than some Alford slants late in the year we couldn’t take advantage of man coverage.
I’d just like to hear about the advantages or disadvantages of this approach, and why we do or don’t employ it on our own defensive side of the ball. What are ways we want to attack it on offense?
The former is all set to go. Just waiting for a rainy day. The latter, well, that interests me. I’ll add it to the list.
If I’m Dana, I give the car keys to Childress or this kid Skyler, whoever plays better in Spring ball and through training camp. I redshirt Crest and “encourage” Millard to look elsewhere, thus opening up a scholarship. Since it’s apparent that next year is make or break, I take my chances on catching lightning in a bottle rather than hoping for improvement out of Millard or Trickett…..
I’m with you and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t happen like that. I just think if Millard or Trickett were the guys, the coaches would say so because they already know so much about them. The constant holding out hope for Childress and the acquisition of Howard are pretty good indications. Among those four, it’s between Childress and Howard in the spring, as long as Childress is healthy and Howard isn’t a bum. The key is Crest and how his situation is managed. He can’t enroll in January, which reduces his chances of playing next season. Can he be sold on the big picture? I doubt Millard is going anywhere. He’s a senior and he’s made himself at home here. He might just serve out the string, and you could do worse than having Millard around your team. He’s a good kid who people like. He can play a series or a quarter or three. There’s a spot for him. Trickett’s in the same spot. He’s got one year left, too, and he’s obviously at home here. The egg timer is upside down on both.
Does a former walk on at Stephen F. Austin help solve our QB woes?
Depends. Can a former offensive coordinator at Stephen F. Austin come up with a list of plays that get receivers wide the hell open? Because Howard clearly thrives in that system.
Can Ford get a medical redshirt for this year? I saw that floated but unsure if that’s actually possible.
Negative. You only get five years to play four. He took a redshirt in 2012 and 2013 was year two and season one. You only get those sixth-year waivers for unique and extenuating stuff, like having to miss a significant amount of class work or having the injury bleed into the next season. Seeing as if Childress was practicing late in the season, I don’t see how WVU could argue either.
I fondly remember beating #2 UCLA my freshman year. Buddy and I had plans to go wait in line real early, since I think it was like an 11:30am tipoff. Of course, like most freshmen, I went to Shooters the night before and got sloppy drunk. Needless to say, I was not in line to go to the game. Thank god for my diehard fan friend! Called me to say he had a seat saved and to get my behind out there. Got there at tip off, and rushed the court with the rest at the end!
UCLA was a Final Four team that year. They were missing a big starter for the game against us, but I don’t remember who. Still a big win for a dangerous West Virgina (yes, I spelled it correctly for ’06-’07) team
That’s a splendid college story, from start to finish.
Peter Bodensteiner said:
That was the year we missed the tourney despite having beaten UCLA, henceforth referred to as UCLA (without Collison) in every bubble team analysis the rest of the year.
And WVU wasn’t even among that first four out or next four out groups, if I remember correctly. Then that team won the NIT. Probably needed to be in the big field that year.
UCLA started a precocious freshman named Russell Westbrook in place of Collison that day
There was a lot of precocious talent on the floor that day. Mbah a Moute, Westbrook, Afflalo, Wellington, Da’Sean, Alexander. TALKINGTON!
Bobby Heenan said:
They went to their bench to get Westbrook (1 of 11, 4 points, 5 fouls). We went to ours to get Ted Talkington.
So, if an individual were to order a special edition of WFTF, are there any restrictions on the personalized inscription? You know, like 100 words or less, no English curse words, nothing that offends the author’s dignity, etc.? I guess what I’m asking is would you transcribe the lyrics to “Cotton Eye Joe”?
I draw the line somewhere. I haven’t yet. But I will. I have a feeling it’s somewhere in your neighborhood. (But seriously, I’ll do it. I need to get rid of these hardcovers in my basement. Won’t you help?
A silly holiday special for that book I wrote, “Waiting For The Fall.” I must say, it aged REALLY well this season. http://t.co/6ygDFKMWPz
— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) December 9, 2013
Was Catlett publicly acknowledged and, if so, what kind of reception did he get from the crowd? Crazy that he’s only been back twice.
He was, but in an oh-by-the-way manner. He and Gary McPherson accompanied Dale Blaney for his big moment.
Former WVU great Dale Blaney accepts his WVU Sports Hall of Fame plaque from coaches Gale Catlett and Gary McPherson. pic.twitter.com/JqOs3syT02
— WVU Men’s Basketball (@WVUhoops) December 11, 2013
For those so inclined, another view of the “twerk” show the appreciative fans handing out George Washingtons. When security came for her, they all chanted “Let Her Stay!”
Jamie in Nitro said:
A couple of ill-advised shots early in the shot clock from out of the shooters range. I would think that with a double-digit lead, you would want to try to pound it in the paint and force the opponent to foul you.
Here’s my spin on what unraveled against Gonzaga — Eron Harris points, er, talking points aside. WVU did what it was supposed to do. A team designs a defense to take away your best player, you better do something to combat it. If Devin Williams is going to be left alone, he’s probably wise to take those shots. He’s wiser to make them, of course, but he has to take them to make them to back Gonzaga out of the defense. Ditto Gary Browne. Did they shoot early in the clock? Perhaps. But hasn’t WVU been an early offense team? I think so. And even if WVU had a low post scorer, I question whether he he would have gotten calls Tuesday night, especially in a transparent attempt to break a game-long trend for the sake of getting to the line. Now, if you mean WVU didn’t attack the basket in the second half like it did in the first, yes, we can have that conversation, but Gonzaga’s guards had a say in that.
Bobby Heenan said:
There’s a time and a place for Williams taking jumpers and Gary taking shots as well. If we’re going to be successful this year then opposing teams have to respect those shots and guard them – we saw last year what a disaster it was on offense when teams just sagged off of everyone and clogged the lane.
However, Williams has got to recognize that those shots are there all shot clock long, and they’re going to give it to him at any time in the possession, so maybe try to get some touches for Harris or Henderson every other trip instead of shooting that wide open shot early in the shot clock.
It’s hard to put a label on those shots from Browne and Williams that seemed to add up to our offensive demise. In a bubble, they aren’t really bad shots…but in the context of the whole game and the lack of touches for Eron, they’re not exactly good shots.
This is true, too. There’s something to be said about taking open shots and something to be said against taking them early. There’s something to be said about getting Harris involved, but there’s something to be said against passing the ball around and waiting for Harris to get free. There’s a balance WVU didn’t properly manage Tuesday, but let’s also not dismiss Harris’ part. I thought he stood and watched some and I thought he let the offense affect his defense some. But I thought WVU, which has thus far always looked for the extra pass, was good enough to find a way to get Harris going.
Staten had 17 against the Zags. Henderson had 15, the same total he had the two games before that. Looking too closely at the offense misses the point that we scored 76 points, 6 more than the total that used to win games for Huggins.
The defense is not where it needs to be. Which isn’t to say it’s bad. It’s getting better and will continue to get better as freshmen play against men for the first times in their lives. The lack of internal size will always be a ceiling for this year’s team, but I’ve seen five players consistently hit shots from a number of places on the floor. The Brain is right on with respect to Devin and when/where he shoots. This team is at its best when it makes extra passes to get the best available shot, not the first available, and as much as I like Dibo’s potential, he has at times curtailed momentum with an overly quick trigger. His airball when we were up ten comes to mind.
Dibo was open, set and in rhythm on that shot. I was stunned that he missed everything. That was a timeout inducing, Jump Around triggering haymaker and the Mountaineers missed.
Although I don’t consider myself a numbskull, I do have a small problem with
Eron’s remarks. I’m not so sure this is really “his” team yet—he has had a hot hand in several games, but it looks like teams have gone beyond trying to take him out of the offense, some have actually done it. If he wants the ball more, I would suggest working a little harder to get it, within the confines of the offense.
You can have a problem with it. On some level, I do, too, but I’m also in the press and I’d be a hypocrite for scorching someone who uses the media to scorch someone. Still, I don’t think it begs discipline or keeping Harris away from the media the rest of the season and I’ve already had people tell me that needs to happen. They’re the numb skulls. And, yes, absolutely, he has to do more to get to the ball. He’s pretty good at getting open, but he’s not that good at getting open twice, if that makes sense. I just think he’s the best and most reliable scorer, though. I’m not going to someone else if I need to stop the bleeding.
Huggs did kick Danny to the curb mid-year. Danny’s averaging 12.7 and 8.3 reb at Long Beach.
I caught a case of giardina backpacking in Colorado earlier this year. Frankly, it was miserable.
It happened a little differently than that. Jennings had been dog housed for a while and was tiring of it, but he wasn’t really doing anything to get out of it despite getting a few starts in succession. In the middle of a game against USF that he didn’t start, Jennings left. Huggins called him a “non-entity” afterward. Days later, he said it “was time” but that he couldn’t believe Jennings did what he did.
“I think it’s my fault,” Huggins said. “I’ve told them for the last few years I don’t think there’s anything that could happen I haven’t seen in 29 years as a head coach – and they’ve proven me wrong several times this year. It’s unfathomable for me that someone would leave their team at halftime. I just can’t imagine anybody doing that.”
WVU played at Louisville a few days later and Huggins told me before the game that Jennings wrote a message on a dry erase board to say good bye. I’ve never gotten a clear story on what the board said, but it might have needed [brackets].
It probably said, “Dear Honorable Coach Robert Huggins and my esteemed colleagues, I have decided that my educational goals have led me toward a different path and therefore I am forced to participate for another group of sportsmen to play the sport of basketball. I hope that your passion for the game continues to burn bright and that you achieve a level of success the likes of which have never been seen. Your friend forever, Daniel Jennings.”
Enjoy the weekend!