Bob Huggins on West Virginia’s Leaders: ‘They Know This is It’
The West Virginia Mountaineers don’t have a leadership problem, if you ask their head coach, Bob Huggins.
His leaders are the ones that are about to run out of eligibility. They know every game could be their last.
“They know this is it,” Huggins said after the Mountaineers’ 78-62 Big 12 Tournament opening win over Texas Tech.
At 19 victories, the Mountaineers appear to have solidified a berth in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve won four of their last five games and if you look at ESPN’s Bracketology, they’re no longer on the bubble.
A lot can change between now and Selection Sunday, of course. But the Mountaineers have flirted with the bubble for much of the Big 12 season.
Huggins knows the players that have gotten him through the rough patches — guard Kedrian Johnson, forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. and guard Erik Stevenson.
When Huggins said “they know this is it” he was talking about those three players in particular.
“Kedy (Johnson) has always been a leader,” Huggins said. “He’s basically a sixth-year guy because of the COVID year. Erik’s been a good leader, and Emmitt has as well. We’ve got upperclassmen and they know this is it and they’re trying to help the younger guys get better.”
It was the “this is it” guys’ time to shine against Texas Tech. Johnson had a team-high 20 points. Stevenson saw his streak of 20-point games end, but he had 18 points. Matthews had 13. Tre Mitchell — a senior but one that has a COVID year to use — had 17 points.
If West Virginia is to upset No. 1 seeded Kansas on Thursday, it will be that quartet that has to lead them.
But not before ice baths. Stevenson was ready for one after the win over the Red Raiders, muttering to Huggins about one under his breath.
Huggins seemed game. In fact, he joked that the media should do it, too.
“(Preparation for Kansas) It’s probably the same as what you guys will do,” Huggins said, referring to the media. “Everyone gets in there (locker room) and answers a bunch more questions and then they’ll go getting the cold tub, like I’m sure you guys will have to after today.”
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard