MORGANTOWN - About a week into this basketball season, an opinion expressed in this space by this longtime press row-sitter was that Coach Bob Huggins needed his West Virginia rookies to mature quickly if he were to reach a 26th 20-win season.
Anyone who has been paying attention knows Huggins is still waiting.
While most of the WVU followers are wondering about next year in the Big 12, Huggins is wondering about next month. I get the impression he still figures he'll be 5-for-5 in NCAA bid seasons at his alma mater, and he'd be thrilled with 20 wins, but ...
No. 24 Louisville (19-5, 7-4) visits the WVU Coliseum at noon Saturday. West Virginia (16-9, 6-6) needs to win. It needs to win its remaining three Big East home games (Louisville, Marquette, DePaul), because I don't see the Mountaineers winning any of their three remaining road games (Pitt, Notre Dame, South Florida).
Huggins was out of answers on whom to play in the second half of Wednesday night's 55-51 home loss to Notre Dame, when his only second-half sub was walk-on Paul Williamson ... for shooting purposes, with 42 seconds to go.
His bench has been shortened by ailments and injury to big men Kevin Noreen and Pat Forsythe, but Huggins expected more from his freshmen who have had to do more than fill roles around veterans Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli.
What the WVU coach wants is some commitments, not the recruiting kind a kid makes before he signs on, but commitments to have your head into the game as much as your arms and legs.
"You have to know what you're doing," Huggins said after a loss that left WVU at least two Big East losses behind seven teams in the standings. "It's frustrating when I sit in there and say, 'Here's what we're going to run, here's where you go,' and then you got a guy out there not running the right place ... we dribble to the wrong side of the floor, and it's happened all year."
He knew it would be difficult. With a young team, Huggins still played perhaps the toughest schedule any of his teams - or any WVU team - has played. The Mountaineers went 10-3 in non-league play, but the Big East is a different animal.
"When has it been easy?" Huggins asked. "You've got to find a way. We sat down here when we were down to eight guys a year ago, and I told you we had to find a way (to make the NCAA Tournament), and we found a way."
Twenty-five games into the season, Huggins figures freshmen shouldn't be freshmen anymore. And he's right, because they're getting the opportunity because of a lack of veterans.
Seriously, none of the freshmen have anything to write home about except starting guard Jabarie Hinds, and on some nights backup guard Gary Browne, who is sometimes too aggressive for his own good, but at least he's putting up some numbers.
"The truth is, and I just told them in (the locker room) ... is we got a whole lot of guys who would never play if we hadn't had all the problems, (with just) three guys returning," Huggins said. "I told them, 'You had a wonderful opportunity.' The problem is we still need to win. And with that opportunity to play comes responsibility."