Coach Huggins, the Good People of West Virginia Don’t Understand Your Substitution Patterns

Let me address your first question(s): No, I have not won 800+ games, I’ve never led a team to the Final Four, I’m not considered one of the best minds in college basketball history, and I’ve never even coached a single game in my entire life.  With that said…

Hundreds of thousands of West Virginia fans were screaming at their television yesterday what I’m about to say and frankly, I’m lending a voice to those people.  Bob Huggins’ substitution patterns do not make any sense.

Huggins’ insistence on immediately substituting players following mistakes does not make players stronger or more determined.  Instead, it makes them scared and pissed off.  Allowing players to play through mistakes and get comfortable on the court is a far more effective strategy.

He’s one of the best ever and I wouldn’t trade him for any other coach in the world (maybe Coach K?), but you don’t have to be a genius to see that playing Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe together doesn’t work.  I’ve led the charge of only playing one of them at a time for this whole season (yes, even when they were winning) and apparently Huggins has heard it.

In his post game conference following the inexcusable loss at Texas Christian University, Huggins said this:  “Two bigs kind of bogs down our offense.  I said I wasn’t sure that’s the case, but I keep getting that suggestion.  It’s the wrong suggestion.”

Clearly, Huggins doesn’t agree that not only does playing Culver and Tshiebwe make it difficult for them but also players attempting to penetrate (i.e. Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Jermaine Haley) because the lane is too clogged.

Although Tshiebwe and Culver were not both in the example below, this is very often what the lane looks like for the Mountaineers.  Three players standing in the post, waiting for the ball to be dumped down to them, while the two perimeter players pass the ball around, is a very, very offense to defend.  Check out this offensive set:

Offensively, the Mountaineers have been abhorrent, but it has far less to do with “not making shots” and much more to do with not spreading the floor properly and not forcing the defense to exert any real energy.  Rather, West Virginia’s opponents sink down into the zone and take their chances with the Mountaineers missing perimeter shots.

Rather than discussing players not making shots in the post game, Huggins should instead only address SPACING, SPACING, SPACING. The Mountaineers have players that can create their own shots and shots will be a lot easier to make if the floor is spaced properly.

I adore Bob Huggins and I don’t think I know more about basketball than he does, but this seems like such an easy fix, such an obvious answer that it’s shocking that it’s not being addressed.  Here’s the easy, obvious answer: Do not play Culver and Tshiebwe together, spread the floor, open the lane and allow our athletes to get to the basket, and we can beat anyone in the nation.