CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia just ended its worst basketball season in eight years in the NCAA Tournament, which says something in itself.
And in those eight seasons that span from John Beilein to Bob Huggins on the bench, WVU impressively is the only program that has been .500 or above in Big East Conference play every year - a streak that obviously will end next season with Big 12 travels through Waco and Ames.
As a final postscript to the 2011-12 Mountaineers (19-14), Huggins may have said as much about what his team lacked in two unrelated postgame responses following Thursday's lopsided NCAA Tournament second-round loss to Gonzaga. They're worth repeating, so ...
"I don't, (or) very rarely, mention it because I don't want to give anybody excuses," Huggins said. "But we lost a 6(-foot-)9 guy (Kevin Noreen) who was our really third big, and we lost a 6-11 (Pat Forsythe) who was our fourth big. We were short on the frontline.
"The easiest way to make guys do what they're supposed to do is set them on the bench. They figure out, I better do what I'm supposed to do or I'm not getting back in the game. We couldn't do that. We didn't have enough guys to do that. Going in, we had five bigs. We thought that was enough. You get guys hurt, there's nothing you can do about that.
"We're a whole lot different team. We lost eight of our last 12 (entering the NCAA). When we started losing games is when Kevin Noreen went down. Kevin's not a great athlete, but he knows what he's doing and he screens and he rebounds and he guards, and he passes the ball. We were so much better offensively when he was in the game. He knew how to play."
A few minutes before that, Huggins had been asked about Gonzaga freshmen guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who had combined for 27 points, six assists and six rebounds in the win.
Without saying it per se, Huggins explained what the Zags had that his team lacked.
"I think what Mark (Few, Gonzaga coach) has done is a great job of recruiting guys that know how to play basketball," Huggins said. "I think sometimes you get guys caught up in guys that know how to run and jump, but they don't know how to play basketball.
"It's hard when you can't make any adjustments. I think the adjustments they make at the defensive end and offensively are because he's got guys with high basketball IQs - at least they appear to have."
Noreen has that same kind of basketball IQ as those Gonzaga guards. In WVU parlance, Noreen is a taller, less physical, more talented version of Cam Thoroughman. WVU lacked a lot of that kind of savvy - even before Noreen's injury left Huggins' rotation short.
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PROJECTED AS a late first-round NBA Draft choice, WVU senior forward Kevin Jones continues to add to his All-America honors, with a second team selection by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
He's also a third team pick by Basketball Times, which selects teams that can take the floor (three frontcourt players and two guards or wing players). Jones has two All-America seconds and two thirds on to date.