MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The reality of the situation for West Virginia's basketball team after what amounts to pretty much one-third of the season is this: The Mountaineers have discovered that potential will get you only so far.
It might be worth a few wins, at least as long as the teams they're playing don't have the same kind of potential. Face the teams that do and it's an uphill battle.
West Virginia has now lost three of four after a 5-1 start. That's reality.
But this is, too: All three of those losses were by single digits to teams now in the Top 25 - No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 20 Gonzaga and No. 24 Missouri. Combined, those teams were 28-1 through Tuesday.
Bob Huggins knows that. He also knows all about the potential that West Virginia seems to hold. Shoot, he's been front and center in espousing it.
But he also knows that 10 of the season's 31 games are already in the rear-view mirror. And while he famously grates at any mention of glancing into that mirror - "This truck ain't got one, son, 'cause we're not going backwards'' - he also knows that inch by inch, game by game, opportunities are slipping away.
"I think we can beat everybody we've played. Given another chance at the end of the year, I think we can beat everybody we've played to this point,'' Huggins said. "We're going to continue to get better and better and better. But at the same time, we've got to win enough games to be able to do that.''
True. If the Mountaineers don't start winning a few of those games that seem winnable, they may never get a chance to show how far they have come at the end of the year. If the NCAA tournament is the goal - and when isn't it? - these games matter.
The reason West Virginia hasn't been able to win them is simple - that potential has yet to be realized. There's no question it is there. This is a team with athletic perimeter players, good shooters and size everywhere except in the middle.
Yes, that's a concern, the most pressing one, in fact. Unless Jonathan Holton miraculously becomes eligible for the second semester, freshman Devin Williams is pretty much the only offensive option under the basket. He's improving, true, but still has a long way to go.
But if West Virginia can parlay those shooters and athletes and size everywhere else into something consistent, that will go a long way toward this team fulfilling its potential.
The problem is there has been very little consistency. The hope is that it will come with time, but for now there are lapses that just can't be overcome.
Take that 80-76 loss to Gonzaga at the Coliseum Tuesday night. Both offensively and defensively there were glaring holes.