MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - After playing just 12 games in a nearly eight-week span, going through long idle stretches and some head-scratching losses and experimenting with lineups and rotation combinations all along, West Virginia's basketball team is about to settle into more of a normal routine.
Well, if this can be called normal. Or routine.
The Mountaineers (7-5) open their first season of Big 12 play today with a home game against Oklahoma (9-3) at the Coliseum. The 4 p.m. contest will be televised by the Big 12 Network and shown locally on WQCW.
That West Virginia begins its first trip through the Big 12 with a game against a team it already played once in non-conference play is strange enough. The Mountaineers lost 77-70 to Oklahoma on Thanksgiving weekend in the third-place game at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla.
But the oddities don't stop there. For starters, this begins a conference season like no other that Bob Huggins has been through. It begins at home, but then 11 of the next 19 games are on the road, the shortest trip by far being the last non-conference game at Purdue on Jan. 19. The others are league games in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa, five of them 9 p.m. starts.
In other words, travel will be an issue.
"I really don't know how this all will affect us,'' Huggins said, referring to trips that will have players returning to their homes at 4 a.m. "I've never been through anything like this on a regular basis.''
There's also the element of the unknown as far as opponents are concerned. Huggins coached for a year in the Big 12 and has faced virtually all of the coaches in the league, but his players have little experience.
"Generally I think [the beginning of conference play] means familiarity, but I don't think this year it does,'' Huggins said, thinking back to WVU's last 17 years in the Big East. "You play Georgetown and you know what you're getting. You play Villanova and you kind of know what you're getting.''
You play Iowa State, who knows?
But perhaps even more of a question mark concerns not who West Virginia plays, or where, but who will be playing for the Mountaineers. Twelve games into the season, Huggins has yet to pare down his rotation. And he may not.
In the Mountaineers' first 12 games, all 13 scholarship players saw the floor at critical times. Nine of them started and three of those who have not - Gary Browne, Eron Harris and Dominique Rutledge - are playing key roles now.