MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - At this stage of the college basketball season, there aren't many secrets. What we know about West Virginia's team is what others know to be true, too. There's no hiding the strengths (3-point shooting) and weaknesses (rebounding) and things the Mountaineers could be better at (defense).
We're all aware this is a team that will be carried by what Juwan Staten and Eron Harris do on offense. But this is the inevitable part, the thing the Mountaineers would like to mute for as long as possible. They're only going to go as far as a third source of offense will take them.
Staten and Harris are going to get 35 or so points per game, split evenly or dominated by one jumping up and scoring a bunch to make up for the other. If they come together on the same night and go beyond their averages, WVU is then very hard to beat.
Those two get going in separate ways. Harris is a streaky shooter who spooks other teams and can find a pile of points in a matter of seconds. Staten is strong and speedy and warms up with layups. If he wears out a path to the basket, he'll mix in emergency break jumpers to keep the defense guessing.
They are complementary parts that a defense can't adequately cover if they're both clicking.
And they are surrounded by front-runner scorers who thrive when Staten and Harris thrive, who are most comfortable when the defense allows them to be most comfortable. Terry Henderson, Remi Dibo and Nathan Adrian live on open jumpers and vacated paths to the baskets - and one more than the other, of course.
But here's the problem for WVU, one that's become apparent lately and in the past two losses in particular. Kansas used length to discourage Harris once he made 3s in three successive possessions, though, to be fair, it was Andrew Wiggins, a very long and very underrated defender, who did that job. Texas later used rangy guards on the perimeter and help defense in the paint to keep Staten under wraps and without a layup for the first 34 minutes.
They had no complementary parts to come to the rescue. Henderson, Dibo and Adrian were non-factors, except for a brief spurt of debatable worth by Adrian against Texas.
Huggins said the other pieces are at times guilty of standing around and waiting for the expected Harris-Staten barrage to arrive, but the stated goal of some of these defenses lately is to do everything to keep it from happening.
And the reason why is pretty clear: WVU doesn't have a trustworthy third option. Not a player. Not an application. That's not a slight. It's a 25-game-old reality. It's apparent when Eron Harris says this about Henderson after the loss to Kansas, the one where Henderson followed a 17-point performance in a win against Oklahoma with a two-point, 0-for-3 showing in 22 minutes against the Jayhawks.