MORGANTOWN - Bob Huggins probably isn't in a position yet to scream, "I told you so,'' but in light of recent developments, don't you have to believe the urge is becoming stronger?
Were I better organized, I might be able to chronicle all the times over the past three months when West Virginia's basketball coach opined that, immediate and concrete evidence to the contrary, his team just wasn't that far away from being pretty good.
It was usually met with a yawn or a cocked eye because invariably it followed a loss. It might have been one of those heartbreakers at the end like Gonzaga or Purdue, or a home game with Oklahoma State. Occasionally it was when the Mountaineers just ran out of gas and flailed or fell apart or just didn't have it in the final minutes against Wisconsin or Oklahoma State on the road.
But more often than not, the message was essentially the same: This is a young team that can only get better, and eventually it will.
Well, guess what. It did.
It's one thing to have a knee-jerk reaction to isolated events, which might be the case had West Virginia merely beaten Iowa State or Oklahoma or Kansas State at home, or won at Baylor and taken Kansas into the final minutes on the road. Those could have been anomalies.
But to beat Iowa State AND Oklahoma AND Kansas State at home, and win at Baylor AND take Kansas into the final minutes on the road? Well, that's what's called compelling evidence of a trend, not a glitch.
This is becoming a better basketball team. And what has to be even more encouraging to Huggins is that his team has become that in almost all facets.
There's perhaps no better evidence of that than in West Virginia's shooting percentage. It's gone down.
That's right, down - not dramatically, mind you, but down nonetheless. After losing to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, the Mountaineers were shooting 45.3 percent from the floor. Since that time, WVU has shot 43.4 percent. As for the team's 3-point shooting, that has remained basically stagnant. It was 38.5 percent after the loss at OSU and has been 38.6 percent since then.
Now, on the surface that might seem a bit counterintuitive, for lack of a better word. A team getting better because its shooting is getting worse? But look at it this way. All season long, Huggins has maintained that his team is pretty good when it makes shots. Yeah, well, aren't all teams better when they make shots?