MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - To say that West Virginia accomplished nothing during its 13 non-conference basketball games would be just wrong.
The Mountaineers did, after all, win eight games.
OK, so they were pretty much the eight they were supposed to win. But along the way they did manage some other things.
They appear to have found some of the scoring punch that was so lacking a year ago when they finished 13-19 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2004. A team that did not have a single player average in double figures in 2012-13 now has four at or close to that mark, including sophomore guard Eron Harris (18.3 points per game), who is second in the Big 12 in scoring.
They have, to a degree, been able to work four new players into the nine-man rotation and get them comfortable. Freshmen Devin Williams and Brandon Watkins are developing a low-post presence, and freshman Nathan Adrian and junior college transfer Remi Dibo have shown flashes of the ability to stretch defenses with their outside shooting.
West Virginia has also developed a pretty good perimeter attack. The Mountaineers are second in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting percentage, even while hoisting more of those shots than anyone else in the league save for Iowa State. As a result, a scoring average that was just 66.1 points per game last year is 81.1 points so far this season.
Still, to consider the 13 preseason games that are now in the books a success would not be true. The Mountaineers did not manage to beat a single team that figures to help its chances of getting back into the postseason. Six of its eight wins came against teams outside the Top 250 in the RPI and the other two were against teams outside the Top 200. WVU had chances against teams currently ranked Nos. 3, 15, 18, 98 and 150, and lost them all.
Well, over the next two months, the Mountaineers will get plenty more of those chances. They begin play this weekend in a Big 12 Conference that is a collective No. 1 in the RPI and boasts three teams in the RPI Top 10 and six in the Top 50.
Even the lowest-rated teams in the league - coincidentally the two that are first up for the Mountaineers - are ranked higher than anyone the Mountaineers have beaten to date. TCU, Saturday's 4 p.m. opponent in Fort Worth, Texas, is No. 180. Monday night's 7 p.m. game in Lubbock is against No. 158 Texas Tech.