Morgantown, West Virginia – In typical Bob Huggins fashion, West Virginia’s legendary head coach was very blunt about how he feels about his Mountaineers this season.
“Right now, this group is not even close to being as good as the group was last year,” Huggins said in his most recent press conference. “We have a lot of work to do. That’s not to say we can’t do it, but we do have a lot of work to do.”
West Virginia lost both Miles “Deuce” McBride and Derek Culver from last year’s team, and Huggins knows that they are both difficult players to replace. Although McBride was a tough loss for the Mountaineers, Huggins believes that losing Culver’s interior defense and rebounding will be the team’s most challenging parts to replace.
West Virginia added veteran interior players Dimon Carrigan and Pauly Paulicap, both accomplished defensive players at their previous stops, but Huggins said that playing in the Big 12 Conference is an entirely new challenge for the newcomers.
“I can tell you what you find out is that it’s a lot easier to block shots at lower levels than it is here, honestly,” Huggins said. “They block shots every once in a while, but they’re not Sagaba Konate, they’re not Derek Culver, they’re not some of the other guys we’ve had. The physicality is what gets them and they’re not used to that. This is a really physical league, and they have to get used to that.”
Asked about the team’s defense, Huggins thought for a bit and then finally said, “We’re not very good. There is a difference between guarding and guarding the way we guard. We haven’t figured out the way we guard yet.”
The Mountaineers will need to figure it out quickly, as the season is right around the corner. West Virginia plays Akron in a televised exhibition against Akron tonight and will then open the regular season at home against Oakland on November 9th. Three days after the opener, the Mountaineers will welcome the Pitt Panthers for the basketball edition of the Backyard Brawl.
Although Huggins is understandably concerned with his team’s defense, West Virginia returns an incredible amount of talent, featuring seniors Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, Gabe Osabuohien, as well as talented sophomore Jalen Bridges, and this is a roster capable of competing for the Big 12 Championship and more.
Tune in tonight at 7:00 on ESPN+ to get your first look at the 2021-2022 West Virginia Mountaineers when they host Akron in a charity exhibition at the WVU Coliseum.