MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Whatever success Juwan Staten has this season will be defined in the coming months as West Virginia pushes through a challenging stretch of non-conference games before opening Big 12 play against Oklahoma on Jan. 5.
Staten is the team's point guard, the transfer from Dayton, where he led the Atlantic 10 in assists (190) as a freshman in the 2010-11 season.
The Mountaineers will need his points and his assists if they are to be better than the sixth-best team in the Big 12, as predicted in the preseason coaches' poll, and make their sixth straight NCAA Tournament.
Truth is, Staten's greatest achievement may have already happened.
Even though he sat out last season because of the NCAA's transfer rules, his teammates named him a team captain before the start of this season.
"One of his skills, I would say, is that he's really good with the ball and he can pass and shoot and score and all that stuff," senior Deniz Kilicli said, "but I think his biggest skill is that he can really organize our team."
That will be Staten's calling over the next 12 days, a stretch in which WVU's season will take form. It begins with Wednesday's Capital Classic against Marshall (5-3) at the Civic Center.
Three days later, the Mountaineers (2-3) host Virginia Tech (7-0), which is off to its best start since 1982-83, when WVU assistant Ron Everhart was a sophomore.
WVU then plays Duquesne Dec. 11 at the Consol Energy Center before playing No. 3 Michigan Dec. 15 at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
This is very much the opportunity Staten eyeballed last season as he watched from home and from the bench when WVU finished 19-14 and had frequent and sometimes prolonged periods when the offense didn't work.
"I felt last year that we kind of lacked that guard that kind of brought everyone together," Staten said. "I want to go out there and be a leader every time I step out on the court. I feel like I know what's going on and it's my job to help people who don't and make sure the team gets into plays when we need to and gets into sets when we need to and plays defense when we need to."
The Mountaineers can continue the momentum they started assembling in Wednesday's 94-69 win against VMI, when seven players scored in double figures for the first time since 1994, or they can feel a little like they did after two losses in the Old Spice Classic left them 1-3.