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WVU v. TCU: Nathan for you?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

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You are not looking live at today’s starting lineup introductions. This is from the Baylor game last Saturday, and that was Nathan Adrian’s fourth straight start.

Yesterday, a day after Bob Huggins reinstated Jon Holton from his indefinite suspension, Huggins wouldn’t commit to starting Holton, as is custom, or Adrian, who’s been uncommonly good these past five games.

“I think it’s been great for Nate,” Huggins said. “He’s played the best basketball since he’s been here. His confidence is at an all-time high.”

Strong words there. Sounds like he’s in, right?

Confidence can be empowering, and there is no doubt Adrian’s play suggests he believes he belongs, which is a big deal. He could not have felt that way, or at least quite as strongly, before. His numbers before this stretch and after the stretch are significantly different, but the greatest proof is when and how he’s contributes.

Adrian’s been a cog — a scoring cog, even — in key moments and in big wins. Being in there has helped him and making plays has helped him. He’s not deferring because he thinks someone out there or on the bench is more able or more deserving. He’s doing things.

But confidence can be fleeting, and returning him to a reserve role, even if he’s in at the end, is a risk. I guess saying it’s a risk implies Adrian isn’t capable of this level of play in an altered role … but saying it’s a risk also implies it isn’t necessary.

So this is interesting. Huggins’ loudest threats and most punitive actions through the years has been to bench players and cut into their minutes, yet he doesn’t believe players will or ought to react different to varied roles. He’s enacting player responsibility, for sure, but it is a paradox.

So, what is it Bob?

“I’ve gotten really good at answering this question,” He said. “I think Nate has played extremely well, so whichever way we go, I think it’s going to make us better. It’s not a bad thing to have Nate or Jon coming in with Jaysean or Tarik.”

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Friday Feedback

Friday, February 12, 2016

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Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which is not about to tell you a joke. A punter, a guy with a knee and two early entries will walk into the NFL Combine. It’s Feb. 23-29 in Indianapolis, and as you can see, West Virginia did all right. Only Oklahoma had more players invited in the Big 12. I have to think the Mountaineers’ best pro prospects were invited, although Kyle Rose is glaring at me, and I would have to agree.

Still, it’s good news for WVU. It’s great news for Smallwood and Worley, who have the stage to justify their decisions to skip their senior seasons, as well as Karl Joseph, who will get a useful once or twice over by interested teams, of which there are already many, and could see his considerable stock solidified and even elevated.

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, watch where you’re going.

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And so ends this chapter

Thursday, February 11, 2016

I’ll be honest: I always thought this was going to last three games. It’s what I heard the morning before Holton was suspended and it’s what I heard following Saturday’s win against Baylor. Any reason I was made to wonder otherwise came Monday, when Huggins intimated this was out of his control, and then Tuesday, when Huggins pulled a cloud over everything on his pregame radio spot. Everyone else I hurried to talk to then gave me the idea something additional had happened, because they, too, it was to end before the Kansas game.

And for all we know, all of that may have been true. What we do know is it’s now over. One question remains: Does he start Saturday against TCU? Actually, maybe two questions: Do Holton and Nate Adrian start?

‘It’s not like we fell to fifth place’

Thursday, February 11, 2016

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So true, Devin Williams. So true. West Virginia isn’t out of the Big 12 race. In fact, the Mountaineers are very much in it.

Consider that with seven games to go, the Mountaineers play four games at home, including both games in a Saturday-Monday set, and one game each against the three teams at the bottom of the standings.

They’ve already played at Oklahoma and Iowa State and are the only team in the top six that doesn’t have a game left against Kansas, which displayed championship resolve at home against WVU and has now won four in a row to make another conference title a real possibility.

“I think were playing better,” Self said. “We had that dull stretch that I hope everybody else is going to hit in February.”

Yet the Jayhawks “probably have the toughest schedule of anybody left,” according to Self. They play at Oklahoma, at Baylor and at Texas and play host to Iowa State and have two Saturday-Monday sets, the first of which begins with Saturday’s game against the Sooners.

“With all due respect to Kansas,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said, “I don’t think anybody in this league sits around and thinks about Kansas all the time.”

I think we can cross Iowa State off the list of contenders after last night’s loss at Texas Tech, and I know it’s worth mentioing that WVU is the TeamRankings.com favorite to win the league. Again, that site’s been pretty reliable all season — it missed the Texas game, but who not in burnt Orange didn’t whiff on that one? — and it has WVU favored to win the final seven-regular season games.

Do that, and the Mountaineers win the league, probably outright. Go 6-1 and that’s almost certainly good enough for a share. The only time the Big 12 champ/co-champs had more than four losses? Last season.

No. 6 Kansas 75, No. 10 WVU 65

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

When your team goes 6-for-16 on layups in the second half and 4-for-12 from 3-point range, there’s but one way to start the postgame news conference. Such was life Tuesday night for Bob Huggins, who coached his 300th game with WVU.

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WVU v. Kansas: Whistle noise!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

You are looking live at the maestros tonight as No. 10 WVU and No. 6 Kansas try to settle first place in the Big 12, if only for the time being. As I understand things, those are three names you do not like — Sirmons and Oglesby have given Tarik Phillip technicals this season, and Higgins is an avowed defender of the rules — and you’re probably worried about home cooking and/or excessive whistles.

Well, what if I told you that they’re nowhere near among the most active officials out there?

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Stedman on what happened, what happens next

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

So we’re in Gainesville, Fla., covering WVU on a two-game, six-day road trip and it’s sunny with temperatures in the 70s. It’s not Morgantown, is what I’m saying. We’re talking about what we’re going to do with the time between the games at Florida and Iowa State, and it all involves Tampa and beaches and Ybor City and cowboy boots and Cuban food and eventually another blizzard and the Iowa caucuses. There’s some work in there, because we generally fill that down time with outside projects — like this or this or this or this — but not a lot.

Exception: Mr. Coyle, who was decidedly non-descript about his plans … because it turns out he’d be driving like six hours after the Big 12/SEC Challenge to visit Stedman Bailey for this must-see.

Nathan to laugh about

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

If if remains true that Jon Holton did not travel with the team and will not play against Kansas, then the start will again go to Nathan Adrian. It would be his fifth straight start at two different positions — remember, he started for quick healing Esa Ahmad against Kansas State — and WVU’s 3-1 stretch here pushes the record to 10-7 when the Morgantownian starts.

Bob Huggins indicated, though, that Holton would eventually return to the team and the starting lineup all at once, I think, Adrian’s surge in confidence and sense of belonging notwithstanding. He’s averaged 9.0 points and 4.8 rebounds and made 14 of 22 shots and 6 of 8 3-point attempts as a starter. He was averaging 2.9 points and 2.6 rebounds and had made 19 of 53 shots and 6 of 22 3-point attempts before Ahmad’s absence.

“Jaysean Paige may be our best player right now, and he doesn’t start,” Huggins said. “The great thing about our guys is they just want to win. When everything happened when Esa was hurt and Nate moved to [small forward] for one game, Jaysean came up to me and said, ‘I don’t want to start. I’m so much more comfortable coming off the bench.’

“Tarik [Philip] was the same way. ‘Coach, I just want to win.’ I don’t see Nate and Jon being any different. We’re going to do what’s best for the team, whatever that is. I honestly don’t know what that is right now.”

At the very least, tweet something nice to him.

News, much of it good!

Monday, February 8, 2016

West Virginia has been named ESPN’s team of the week, and Jaysean Paige, the team’s leading scorer and the Big 12’s leading scorer off the bench, was named the conference player of the week for the second time.

A while later, the coaches’ and media polls slipped the Mountaineers inside the top 10 at No. 10. Villanova is No. 1 in both, the first time the Wildcats have topped the polls. They’re the fifth No. 1 this season.

Seven top-10 teams received a first-place vote from the coaches. No. 6 Kansas is among a group that also includes Maryland, Oklahoma, Iowa, North Carolina — which went 0-2 as No. 1 last week — and Michigan State. Villanova, Maryland, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas and Virginia received first-place votes from the media.

Not all of the news was good, though. Bob Huggins said Jon Holton, who is indefinitely suspended and missed the past three games, will “probably not” play tomorrow at Kansas.

At the outset, I was told this was a minimum of three games and that was the expected duration but that it could be extended longer — one of those “he has to do his part” things. I suspect Holton could still play tomorrow and that Huggins might be gaming the press and the opposition — or that he didn’t know at 11 a.m. — but it would seem Holton will miss another one.

But Teyvon Myers will be there.

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‘If you guys have seen it, you know he’s seen it’

Monday, February 8, 2016

Dax Miles was more like himself Saturday than he has been for the entire Big 12 season, and that was good for West Virginia, which might find itself in the top 10 again when the polls come out today. He found 20 points with eight shots and didn’t do any of the things that had lately earned him extended sitting time.

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