At first I thought it preposterous.
Surely WVU coach Bob Huggins wanted this season over as quickly as possible. The Mountaineers are 14-20. Players were sent packing. There would be no NCAA tournament. There would be no NIT. Heck, there would be no CIT.
Pay to play in the College Basketball Invitational? Against Grand Canyon? With the winner playing either Coastal Carolina or Howard?
Then it hit me. We’re talking about Huggins here. We’re talking about one of the most competitive men ever born in the Mountain State.
So CBI it is. Grand Canyon it is. Huggins on Monday was asked about putting the season behind him and moving on.
“There’s a lot of me that would like to do that,” he said on the Big 12 teleconference, “but you have to do what’s best for the program and the kids. We basically have a bunch of guys that have only played half a year, really. They were playing behind other people or were not playing at all. So I think it’s a great experience for them.”
It seems he has Mountaineer fans behind him too. They perked up when the team – minus veterans like Sagaba Konate, Esa Ahmad, Wes Harris and Beetle Bolden – won four of their last six games until running into Kansas. They perked up when the No. 10 seed made the Big 12 semifinals.
“I think they’re playing well together,” Huggins. “I think they have more confidence. They’re not looking over their shoulder.”
And as for the tournament-ending loss to KU, Huggins said the Mountaineers “just ran out of gas. I think that’s 100 percent what it was.”
If you were paying attention, by the way, word leaked during the Big 12 event that Konate was a “game-day decision” to come back from his knee injury.
On Monday, he shot down the possibility of the big man playing in the CBI.
“I don’t think he will,” Huggins said. “We’re, I think, kind of concentrating on working at maybe getting him a redshirt (for this past season).”
It was interesting to hear. Many have assumed Konate will try his hand at the pro ranks after this season. Maybe not.
And Huggins and staff are taking Grand Canyon seriously.
“(Assistant) Ronnie (Everhart) was in (the office) with our film people doing the scout last night,” Huggins said.
Onward goes the season. More playing time is ahead for Emmitt Matthews. And Jordan McCabe. And Derek Culver.
“I just think we need to play,” Huggins said. “The more experience these guys get the better prepared they are going to be for next year.”
If you wondered why new WVU head coach Neal Brown and nine of his assistants went to Huntington to visit 5-star offensive line prospect Darnell Wright, wonder no more.
Sure, Brown wanted to make, well, a statement that prospects in West Virginia are a priority. But that one player apparently was worth the effort simply on his own talent.
See, David Ubben of The Athletic wrote a piece on how Tennessee (the team he covers and the team Wright signed with) is employing dual-sport advanced data to aid its recruiting efforts. A new company called Tracking Football uses raw track-and-field data and pairs it with a player’s height and weight to boil down a player’s athleticism.
Well, a score of 2.0 is average for an FCS player, according to Ubben, while 3.0 is average for an FBS player. The scale goes to 5.0, which is assigned to exceptional athletes like Bo Jackson, Julio Jones, Adrian Peterson.
And Darnell Wright.
So, yes, Brown was right to go hard after Wright.
Follow me on Twitter @MitchVingle. Also, check out my Wheelhouse Creative “Off the Record” live show every Thursday at 7 p.m. at Generations Pub in Wheeling. This Thursday, March 21, my guest will be ex-WVU All-America offensive lineman Brian Jozwiak, who was once selected No. 7 overall in the NFL Draft. He’s a hoot. Get off your couches and join the fun!