During the 1997-1998 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes finished an atrocious season by going 8-22 overall. The following season, the Buckeyes went 27-9 and made a trip to the Final Four. In 2002, Texas El-Paso went 6-24 and then 24-8 and an NCAA Tournament berth the following year.
These are the two biggest turnarounds in college basketball history. The West Virginia Mountaineers, currently 13-2 overall and 3-1 in Big 12 Conference play, are on their way to an historically great season and one of the most spectacular year-to-year turnarounds in the history of the sport.
West Virginia finished a dismal 15-21 and 4-14 in conference play last season. Critics said that Bob Huggins was too old, too out of touch with his players, too this, too that, and it frankly wasn’t an enjoyable season for anyone associated with West Virginia basketball – not the players, not the coaches, certainly not the fans.
Huggins went out and fixed his team and suddenly the Mountaineers are one of the best, most fun teams to watch in the nation again. What were weaknesses last year have become incredible strengths this season – cohesiveness, leadership and putting the team before individual accolades. Bringing in transfers Sean McNeil, Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien, as well as the additions of Freshmen Miles McBride and Oscar Tshiebwe, changed everything.
These five players were precisely what the Mountaineers needed. McNeil and Sherman provide a scoring punch off the bench, Osabuohien adds an interior defensive presence that the team lacked last year and Miles McBride and Oscar Tshiebwe have been just absolutely spectacular.
Looking ahead, there isn’t a team in the country that the West Virginia Mountaineers can’t beat this season. Huggins’ team has the mixture of size, depth and athleticism, and that is extremely difficult to match up with. I truly believe that the players and coaching staff believes that this team can beat any other team in the nation on a neutral court, and they just might be right.