The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 18, 2014

Huggins honest with his team about NCAA chances

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

— Three days ago, West Virginia was listed as one of the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi. On Monday, following Saturday’s loss at Texas, the Mountaineers were listed among the first four out.

With five games left to play, WVU is clearly on the bubble.

“Why wouldn’t we think about the NCAA Tournament?” asked WVU head coach Bob Huggins during Monday’s Big 12 Teleconference. “We’re close. We’re right there. We’ve got to win some more games.”

Three of the five remaining — Saturday vs. Baylor, March 1 vs. TCU and March 8 vs. No. 1 Kansas — are at home, while WVU will play No. 17 Iowa State and Oklahoma on the road.

Two of those teams — Kansas (1) and Iowa State (10) — are among the top 10 teams in the country in the RPI rankings. Oklahoma (25) and Baylor (49) are top 50, meaning WVU — currently 68th on the RPI list — has ample opportunity to improve its resumé down the stretch.

Huggins said Monday those are numbers he openly discusses with his team.

“We talk about RPI,” he said. “I would just as soon them know instead of at the end of the year them coming in and saying, ‘Coach, I wish we would have known.’

“I’ve always been very honest with our guys. Fortunately, most years it’s been about a seed instead of whether we’re getting in or not.”

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Huggins was also asked during Monday’s teleconference about a list compiled by Nicole Shea of College with the “100 Sexiest Coaches in College Basketball.”

Huggins was on the list along with Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and Kansas’ Bill Self out of the Big 12.

“Is that a surprise to you?” joked Huggins upon fielding the initial inquiry.

He then went on to say that he was informed of the list by his daughter and was proud of the accomplishment before looking through the other 99 coaches.

“I was looking through it thinking, ‘This is pretty good,’” said Huggins. “Then I saw the picture of (former Virginia Tech coach and current ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg), and I quit.”

Former WVU point guard Darris Nichols, now in his second season at Northern Kentucky, was also on the list.

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Junior point guard Juwan Staten was one of 23 candidates from an original list of 80 players named a finalist for the 2014 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award.

Beginning Tuesday and running through March 10, fans from around the country can visit and vote for the winner. The list will be trimmed to five players in early March, and the winner will be announced on NCAA Final Four weekend.

Staten, a transfer from Dayton, was one of three finalists from the Big 12 along with DeAndre Kane, a Marshall transfer now with Iowa State, and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart.

Staten is second in the Big 12 in scoring, averaging 18.1 points per game, second in assists with 6.04 per contest and 17th in rebounding with 5.9 boards per outing. His 1.31 steals per game rank fifth, and his 2.91 assist-to-turnover ration ranks second in the league.

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.