Less than one month into the 2014 season, West Virginia has already surpassed half as many wins as the team had last year (13). It was the first losing season for head coach Bob Huggins in thirty years, and since the moment that last-second putback for Texas Tech went in, things have changed in Morgantown.
Huggins says his coaching style changes every year depending on personnel.
According to Huggins, though, that happens every year. It's the nature of the game.
"Well, you change every year, and you have to change every year because you have different personnel," he said on Wednesday. "You have different personnel every year; you have different personalities every year."
The most obvious change has been a more free-flowing offense, full of offensive threats, especially around the three-point arc.
"We are so much more of a perimeter oriented team (this year)," said Huggins. "We didn’t shoot it nearly as well a year ago, but we had Deniz (Kilicli) who drew a lot of attention (down low). We pretty much played a year ago inside-out, where now we don’t. I think we get our paint touches and get the ball to the rim by driving it to the basket rather than trying to throw it in there."
That transition into a more perimeter-focused team is suiting the Mountaineers well, having started the season 7-2 and shooting better than they have since the days of John Beilein. As successful as it has been in non-conference play, Huggins is hoping it helps once the Big12 season starts up.
"This is a different league. It’s a different league with different styles," he said. "I think it’s more of a perimeter skill league, where I think the Big East was a big, strong, physical, kind of almost-bruising league. We tried to recruit some more perimeter scorers."
"There were a lot of adjustments we needed to make."
Big12 play is still a month away, and in the more immediate future, the Mountaineers have a pair of monster non-conference games right in front of them. They play at Missouri Thursday night as part of the Big12/SEC challenge, and welcome Gonzaga to the Coliseum on December 10th.
When asked if the two-game stretch would be a measuring stick for his team, Huggins hesitated for a moment, then simply said, "yea."
"Missouri has the longest home-winning streak in the country," he said. "Gonzaga has been very good for a long, long time, and we haven’t played very well against them."
The Tigers are up first, and the team Huggins was focused on Wednesday.
"I think they’re pretty much perimeter-oriented. Not that their bigs aren’t capable, but I think (Jordan) Clarkson and (Jabari) Brown and (Earnest) Ross have the green light to shoot it and drive it," said Huggins. "They’re really good in transition – really, really good in transition. They’re big, athletic and fast."