It’s Time for West Virginia Basketball to Experiment

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As soon as West Virginia basketball seemed to be back on the right page, they ended up right back at square one. Something needs to change for WVU.

Mountaineers dropped their sixth Big 12 Conference game on Saturday night, falling to No. 7 Texas late, 69-61. The loss hurt Bob Huggins so much that he has started apologizing to the fanbase again.

“It’s frustrating, man. It’s frustrating. What kills me is that I sat here and said we’ll fix it. The people in the state of West Virginia, I told them I will fix it. I thought we were on that road of fixing it. Obviously, we are not. It’s frustrating,” Huggins said. “I’m not the kind of person who wants to let people down. It hurts me to let people down. I feel like I’ve let the great fans of this state down.”

It’s the same story every time now.

Huggins said he’d fix it last season after a miserable 16-17 record, finishing last place in the Big 12 without any sort of postseason. The Basketball Hall of Famer and his staff went out and picked up some good transfers from the Portal and JUCO kids. Fast-forward nine months later and the team is in the same situation. Huggins is admitting he didn’t fix it as he thought he did.

Huggins and his staff need to experiment with their game plan in some way because something isn’t working.

West Virginia needs to play small and cut their rotation down.

WVU G Joe Toussaint played just 11 minutes against Texas. Yes, 11 minutes. Toussaint is arguably one of the most valuable players on this team and he played less than the guys who are behind him in the rotation.

Huggins did admit he screwed up not playing Toussaint after the game.

“My fault. That’s 100% my fault. Joe deserves to play a lot of minutes,” Huggins said.

Toussaint has won West Virginia games this season. Toussaint has kept West Virginia in games this season. The Iowa transfer needs to be in the game as much as possible. Toussaint is averaging 9.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists through 18 games.

Against TCU, West Virginia played nine players. Two out of the nine, Seth Wilson and James Okonkwo, only played two minutes each. WVU had a main seven-man rotation that they went with and it paid off.

Why go back to a long bench and play 11 players against Texas when cutting the rotation down worked against TCU? West Virginia controlled the majority of the TCU game on Wednesday. A huge first half helped WVU to their first win in conference play, and it was over a top-15 team in the country.

West Virginia should also think about playing small and throwing Tre Mitchell at the five in certain situations. Jimmy Bell has been productive for West Virginia but struggles to keep up with smaller, faster fives. Bell plays his best when he goes up against someone his size. Against TCU, Bell recorded a 15-point double-double against Eddie Lampkin, one of the best bigs in the conference.

Throwing Mitchell at the five would be able to stretch the floor out and give guards like Toussaint and Kedrian Johnson more room to drive and kick out the ball.

This team has the talent. This isn’t like last season. I will die on the hill that this year’s team is competitive. They’ve shown it against some of the best teams in the country: Purdue, Xavier, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Texas.

The clock is ticking and West Virginia doesn’t have much time to fix this. They sit at 11-8 (1-6 Big 12) with the schedule not getting any easier for the rest of the season. We’ve seen how this current rotation and setup haven’t worked. It’s time to revert to the game plan against TCU or to experiment with any idea.

West Virginia has nothing to lose in trying new ideas out.

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