Bob Huggins has had to do a lot of tinkering during the first month of the season.
There isn’t anything Huggins hasn’t seen in all of his years of coaching and he is a guy who is not afraid to tinker with stuff. He does not have embedded in his mind, I can’t make a change and I’m not going to listen to anybody because this is the way I do it. That’s not been the way he’s done it. He will find stuff, no matter who had it, because if it fits his personnel then he will consider it.
It’s been a struggle to find some of those things early in the season even though West Virginia has lost only twice by a couple of plays. With a few correctable things West Virginia is 8-0 and ranked right now, and I know Huggs will get things ironed out before St. John’s comes to town to open Big East play on Dec. 29.
In the meantime, the work continues and the first area Huggins has to address is his front line.
He’s got to get better shots for junior forward Kevin Jones and he’s trying to do that. What I mean by better shots are shots around the rim where his strength is. If Kevin can get those to go down his percentage will increase and his confidence will go up and then he can go ahead and take some 3s. Right now, Kevin is thinking he’s got to help this team by taking 3-point shots and he’s 6 for 27 from behind the arc after the Robert Morris game.
I remember one day earlier this month we were looking at box scores from the first seven games last year and I was shocked when I looked down and saw that Kevin was shooting the ball 15-16 times a game. I had 3-point shots in my mind but it wasn’t 3s he was taking - it was the offensive rebounds and stick backs that he was getting. That’s why his shooting percentage at this time last year was 63 percent.
Kevin is too good of a player to continue shooting 41.9 percent, and I know Huggins will eventually get that turned around.
Another area Huggs has been tinkering with is his defense. The 1-3-1 has been a little bit out of sync and I think he will look at some other zone defenses to play, maybe even the matchup which he used so successfully a couple of years ago. The 1-3-1 doesn’t have the length that it had on the wings last year with Devin Ebanks up top, and it doesn’t have the smarts of Da’Sean Butler on the wing. And quite frankly, Wellington Smith did a very nice job in the middle of it.
Where West Virginia is getting caught is teams have been spreading the Mountaineers out defensively and then they can’t guard the on-ball and that chases them into other defenses. We saw that with Miami last Saturday. The game got away so quickly because we couldn’t stop the dribble drive and so Huggins thought to cut down the penetration he would get into the 1-3-1 zone. Well then Adrian Thomas hit a 3 from one corner and then came back and hit another 3 from the other corner and that chased him out of it. Then big Reggie Johnson came in and cleaned up inside because we didn’t have anybody to guard him. You could see very clearly what was happening if you were there watching it.
In the immediate future, I think we will find out in these next two games against Duquesne and Cleveland State who will be in West Virginia’s rotation. If you went up to Huggins’ office right now and asked him who his rotation is I don’t think he knows. I think he’s going to play through the competition to see who wants to go out there and play hard every play. We saw some different people do that against Robert Morris on Tuesday night, and I suspect the guys sitting on the bench will take notice of that.
To me, it’s a long season - it’s a marathon and not a sprint to get it done the right away - and I have no doubt in my mind that Huggins will tinker with things until he gets the right people where he wants them.