There is no questioning the basketball knowledge of West Virginia University head coach Bob Huggins.
After all, the former-Mountaineer player has won 710 games in 30 seasons as a head coach, taken 20 of his teams to the NCAA tournament, has two NCAA Final Four and four NCAA Elite Eight appearances and coached 10 All-Americans and 56 all-conference selections.
But even WVU's 21st head basketball coach can't tell fans for sure what this year's squad will do when it takes to the CONSOL Energy Center on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh to take on No. 7 Gonzaga (25-6) in a second round contest at 7:20 p.m. today.
It has just been that kind of up-and-down season for the old gold and blue and, perhaps, one of Huggins' best coaching performances.
Yes, West Virginia brought back proven commoditites in seniors Kevin Jones and Darryl "Truck" Bryant as well as junior Deniz Kilicli from a 2010-11 team that posted a 21-12 mark and lost to Kentucky in the third round of the NCAA tournament. It also returned Minnesota's Mr. Basketball, Kevin Noreen, who missed most of last season with an injury.
The remainder of the squad, however, would be composed of a bunch of very talented, but also extremely inexperienced freshmen. And, two of those, Jabarie Hinds and Keaton Miles, would work their way into the Mountaineers' starting five on opening day against a visiting Oral Roberts five.
Throughout WVU's 19-13 campaign fans have witnessed this team win big games over Kansas State (85-80, 2OT), Georgetown (74-62) and Cincinnati (77-74, OT), but they have also sat through embarrassing losses to Seton Hall (67-48) and St. John's (78-62).
So, what does all of that have to do with No. 10 WVU's second round matchup with the Bulldogs?
Maybe nothing, maybe everything as not even the best basketball analyst can sit down and accurately predict what WVU fans can expect to see out of their beloved Mountaineers when they open their postseason play.
Jones has already proven that he is one of the premier players in the Big East and, if you look at the All-American teams that have already been released, around the country. He is only the third player in Big East history to lead the conference in both scoring and rebounding, but those weren't impressive enough to earn him Player of the Year honors in the league the Mountaineers are bidding a farewell to after the season.
Then there is Bryant. When this sharpshooting guard is on there may not be a better shooter in the country. But when he is not-which has happened on more than one occasion-he can shoot the Mountaineers right out of a game.
Finally, there is Kilicli.
Like Bryant, when WVU's Turkish Connection is playing at a high level the old gold and blue is an offensive rebounding machine. But there have been too many games this season where Kilicli has spent most of his time in sideline conferences with Huggins instead of making opponents pay for not blocking out his 260-pound frame.
One thing is for sure, however. WVU must have big games from all three to advance past Gonzaga and keep their season alive.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org