WVU men facing new challenge

MORGANTOWN — Questions have lingered around the West Virginia men’s basketball program for weeks, but it seems likely some of them may be answered on Saturday.

The Mountaineers will return to the court for their first matchup since Jan. 9 due to COVID-19-related postponements. The Kansas State Wildcats will host, and the game is scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

Those on the outside have been curious about how intensely COVID-19 has affected the program, and while it doesn’t appear that the No. 14 Mountaineers are experiencing drastic health issues, there are still plenty of negatives about the team’s ordeal over the last few weeks.

Among them is a much more difficult attempt to prepare for competition. Not even head coach Bob Huggins knows what to expect from his WVU team (9-4, 2-3 Big 12) in its return to the floor.

Huggins, who spoke to members of the media during a Thursday press conference, was mum when asked about specific aspects of his team, namely about how the team would look when returning to the hardwood.

“In 43 years of being in this business, this is uncharted waters,” Huggins said.”

“I don’t know what I can say and I can’t say because of HIPAA. Sometimes we kind of skirt the truth a bit. I’m telling you, 100% straight up, I don’t know. I don’t have a clue.”

It isn’t publicly known which members of the team Huggins will have at his disposal to use against the 5-10 Wildcats, nor what position they are in to play to their potential.

“I think the guys that we had available, I think their conditioning will be fine,” Huggins said. “I have no idea about those other guys.”

While WVU has been sidelined, Kansas State has missed very little time – one of the few bright spots for West Virginia.

The Wildcats will enter the game still searching for their first win of the 2021 calendar year, but they have played five games this month, giving the Mountaineers plenty of game film to observe.

“I think they’ve got the best young group in our league,” Huggins said.

“Their freshmen are talented. They have a couple veteran guys, and I think they get better and better with each game they play as their youth continues to get experience. They did a great job recruiting. I watch them play and I’m looking at some of those guys they were able to recruit in a day where nobody pays attention to anybody who isn’t allegedly a top 100 recruit. These guys are good.”

Among those freshmen is guard Nijel Pack, who ranks second on the team in scoring with 10.7 points per game. Ahead of him are senior Mike McGuirl and sophomore DaJuan Gordon, who have improved drastically after combining to average 13 points per game against the Mountaineers last season.

Three of the Wildcats’ most-used starters are freshmen, speaking to the team’s influential youth movement. Along with Pack, guard Selton Miguel is averaging 8.5 points per game, and 7-foot forward Davion Bradford is contributing nearly seven points per game.


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