MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - If, indeed, there is safety in numbers, well, Bob Huggins probably shouldn't be feeling very safe these days.
His West Virginia basketball team is four days away from its only public exhibition game and just over a week away from the actual start of the season. The NCAA limit for scholarship players is 13. Huggins has 11.
One, Elijah Macon, is ineligible for the season.
Another, Jonathan Holton, is ineligible at least for now.
And yet a third, Remi Dibo, just went under the knife. It was relatively minor knee surgery - relative to what it could have been - but he's still rehabbing and Huggins doesn't seem quite certain when he will play, although the opener is still a possibility.
Keep the calculator turned off. The math is really simple. Come Monday, when West Virginia hosts Fairmont State in that exhibition game, might Huggins have just eight available scholarship players?
"That could happen,'' Huggins said. "It could be less.''
It better not be less because already Huggins' options are severely limited.
Of course, this isn't what Huggins had in mind when he set out to reconstruct perhaps the worst team he's had in three decades of coaching. Three players from that 13-19 disaster of a year ago were already ticketed to leave when their eligibility was up. But he needed more changes than that, so five more left either of their volition or by mutual agreement that they would be better elsewhere.
A funny thing happened on the way to reconstituting the roster, however. Huggins found seven guys he liked to fill most of the eight available roster spots, but one, guard Daxter Miles, didn't qualify. Macon finally managed to get into school at the last minute, but be it because of academics or a bad wrist he won't play. Holton remains the most mysterious question mark because he could eventually become eligible. Or not.
Throw in the injury to Dibo and suddenly West Virginia is looking at guys like Richard Romeo, Chase Connor and Tyrone Hughes for depth. They're walk-ons, by the way. There's another walk-on on the roster, James Long, but he has to sit out the year as a transfer from Wofford.
Huggins, though, isn't complaining, not that he could if he wanted to. After all, he's the one in charge of recruiting these guys, so if he doesn't have a full roster he's the one who shoulders the blame.
And it's not unheard of to have success playing short-handed.