MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - To say that the pre-Big 12 Conference portion of West Virginia's basketball season did not go smoothly would be an understatement of epic proportions.
No one expected the Mountaineers to be just 7-5 heading into Saturday's 4 p.m. home game against Oklahoma, least of all Bob Huggins.
Oh, sure, there were to be rough spots. The schedule to date is ranked No. 40 in the RPI, which might not sound all that daunting until one realizes 307 teams have faced lesser slates.
Four of the players being counted upon in the rotation are in their first seasons, too - transfers Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray and freshmen Terry Henderson and Eron Harris. Four more are in just their second seasons - Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, Keaton Miles and Dominique Rutledge.
If you're counting, that's eight of the nine players who saw time in WVU's last game before the calendar turned to 2013, a 74-67 win over Eastern Kentucky. And the one real veteran is Deniz Kilicli, whose season to date has been uneven, to put it most charitably.
Given that strength of schedule and relative inexperience, some glitches were to be expected.
What wasn't anticipated, however, was a lack of improvement as November turned to December and now to January. It annoys Huggins to no end.
"It's incredibly frustrating to have to say the same thing day after day after day after day,'' he said after that win over EKU. "It's incredibly frustrating. They just keep doing the same things."
By that he means the same wrong things, not the right ones.
On Saturday, the Mountaineers get a bit of a do-over in their first-ever Big 12 game. As luck would have it, they faced Oklahoma quite by accident of fate in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., on Thanksgiving weekend. The two were placed in opposite brackets in order to make a game between them less likely, but they wound up in the third-place game. Oklahoma won 77-70.
Since that time, the Sooners (9-3) have won five of seven, but like the Mountaineers have no real signature victories. Oklahoma's best win might be a 64-54 home victory over a 9-3 Texas A&M team, but the Sooners followed that three days later by losing at home to Stephen F. Austin.
For now, though, Huggins doesn't appear to be as concerned with Oklahoma or any other Big 12 team as he is with his own. The Mountaineers' own shortcomings have to be addressed first and it begins, he said, with a simple desire to play the kind of hard-nosed basketball he wants from all his teams.
He thought he saw some of that when WVU fairly manhandled Eastern Kentucky and took a 16-point lead in the first half, but the Mountaineers gave every bit of that and then some away before rallying to win.