Column by MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Bob Huggins admittedly feels very good going into his sixth season as the West Virginia men’s basketball head coach.
So much so, he believes this year’s team could possibly win as many as 25 games if all of the players stay healthy.
But the Big 12 Conference coaches have picked the Mountaineers to finish sixth in the league. That was in the preseason poll.
“If we’re the sixth best team in the league, then it’s a heck of a league,” Huggins said as the Mountaineers began practicing Saturday.
“If we can stay healthy, we have as good a chance as anybody and most people would say that’s a pretty good team.
“But we’re probably not going to win 25 because of the teams we play. But we do have a chance to be pretty good this year.”
The Mountaineers will play 31 games during the regular season. Those include 18 in the Big 12 Conference and 13 non-conference contests.
WVU will host Glenville State in an exhibition game Tuesday, Nov. 6. Then it will open the regular season Monday, Nov. 12, at Gonzaga.
Huggins believes that if all the players avoid injuries, the Mountaineers will have as good a chance to compete for the Big 12 title as the other teams.
“I’ve said that all year long,” Huggins said. “I haven’t seen anything that would make me feel otherwise other than guys getting hurt.”
Kansas is the league coaches’ choice as favorite to win the Big 12 title. Baylor is second, Oklahoma State third, Texas fourth and Kansas State fifth.
Huggins noted that his players are in good physical shape for this time of the year. They were expected to begin organized practice in the new state-of-the-art practice facility.
“It gets a lot easier this year because we have more guys back,” Huggins said. “Last year was bad. There was stuff going on everywhere and you couldn’t fix everything.
“And they’ve got so much better in what we wanted and what’s expected of them.”
Deniz Kilicli, 6-foot-9 senior forward, is the only player in his fourth year as a Mountaineer.
“He is in the best shape of his life,” Huggins said. “His body fat is way down. He’s running much better, and I think the only negative has been we had some guys nicked up.”
He doesn’t think the Mountaineers are as athletic as in some past seasons, but he thinks they are fast on the perimeter.
WVU men’s basketball tickets for non-conference home games went on sale Monday.