MORGANTOWN - Before Bob Huggins departed for San Juan, Puerto Rico earlier this week, he was careful to explain all the advantages there are to taking his West Virginia basketball team away for a few days.
The competition will be good, the time together a bonding experience and the experience of preparing for opponents on short notice valuable. Also, playing three games in four days will accelerate the Mountaineers' preparation for the rest of the season.
Still, there is a qualification that goes along with all of that. Huggins was also asked point blank if what West Virginia gains from the tournament will still be considered a success if the Mountaineers do not actually win it.
"No,'' he said.
Still, just playing in the Puerto Rico Shootout that begins with West Virginia's 11:30 a.m. game today against Davidson has an upside even if the 1-0 Mountaineers aren't the 4-0 Mountaineers when they return.
"It's good competition and it gets us away from here and it's a road [trip],'' Huggins said. "I thought California was good for us last year, and I think this will be good for us. It puts you in a situation where you have to play back to back.''
Last year, West Virginia went to Anaheim, Calif., and won three games rather handily in winning the 76 Classic. That was part of an 11-0 start that was the beginning of a 31-7 season that culminated in the Mountaineers' first Final Four appearance in more than half a century.
"I thought the competition was good [in Anaheim],'' Huggins said. "We didn't play anybody we thought we were going to play, but I thought it was good.''
The Mountaineers could be in for the same this week in San Juan. Last year, if Huggins thought about winning in Anaheim, he envisioned having to face Long Beach State, Clemson and then perhaps UCLA, Minnesota or Butler. But most of those teams lost and West Virginia beat Long Beach, Texas A&M and Portland.
In Puerto Rico, the headliners are probably Vanderbilt, Minnesota and No. 8 North Carolina. West Virginia plays the Vanderbilt-Nebraska winner or loser in Friday's second round, while North Carolina and Minnesota are in the opposite bracket with Hofstra and Western Kentucky.
How all of that plays out is anyone's guess, but even if West Virginia doesn't wind up playing the best teams in the tournament - either because of a WVU loss or defeats by the others - the experience is still worthwhile.
"Honestly, the way [the 76 Classic] turned out I thought was pretty good,'' Huggins said. "Look at the Big East tournament when we played Cincinnati. All of our preparation was to get ready for Louisville. It was the same [in Anaheim] because we didn't think we were going to play Texas A&M. It's just good preparation for you.''
The one certainty, though, is that today's tournament opener is against Davidson. West Virginia last played the Wildcats in the 2008 Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, but Stephen Curry was on that team and scored 27 in a 68-65 Davidson win.