MORGANTOWN - Chances are good that most of the West Virginia fans who turn out tonight to see the Mountaineer basketball team play for the first time since April's Final Four appearance won't be locked in to the same thing as Bob Huggins.
Sure, the WVU coach wants to see if his team might have the ability to score some points. He'll be looking to see how point guards Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant work together when they are on the floor at the same time, and how much big men Dan Jennings and Deniz Kilicli have progressed since last season. He's naturally curious to see how Kevin Jones handles leadership and clutch scoring opportunities.
But while Huggins is certainly interested in seeing all of that, he's probably more concerned about how his team rebounds and plays defense when the Mountaineers face North Carolina-Pembroke in a 7 p.m. exhibition game at the Coliseum.
Face it, that's why West Virginia won so much a year ago, and it will likely be the difference between winning and losing a lot of the time this winter.
"A year ago, offensively our stats didn't look very good. But we were probably as good a defensive team as there was in our league and we were the best rebounding team, particularly the best offensive rebounding team,'' Huggins said Thursday. "Those areas are not near where they were or where they need to be yet. There are a lot of things we need to fix.''
The problems won't be fixed tonight, not against a Division II team coming off a 9-18 season (although the Braves do return seven of their top eight scorers). But right now that's not the point.
"I'm never pleased,'' Huggins said. "I think we've been pretty good in controlled situations, but we really haven't got out and played much. We've scrimmaged a couple of times, but we really need [this game] in the worst way, to go out and play against other people.
"We just need to play. I think playing will tell us a lot.''
On the whole, Huggins is pretty much where he figured to be at this point while trying to replace NBA draft picks Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, as well as Wellington Smith, from last year's 31-7 team that won the school's first Big East tournament championship, set a school record for wins and reached the Final Four for the first time since 1959. He has just two starters returning in Bryant and Jones, but he has extensive experience in guys like Mazzulla, John Flowers and Cam Thoroughman.