PHILADELPHIA - It would be convenient perhaps if Bob Huggins could look at his West Virginia basketball team in the context of playing a brutal Big East schedule and say that every team eventually wears down - especially those that play only seven or eight players regularly.
He's not going to use that as an excuse, though. In fact, when asked following the Mountaineers' 66-50 loss to Villanova Saturday if the mental and physical toll was beginning to wear on his limited number of available players, he seemed to consider the notion almost ridiculous.
"They play a hundred of them in the NBA against the best athletes in the world,'' Huggins said. "A hundred of them. They seem to keep playing.
"We're fine. We've just got to make some shots.''
Indeed, West Virginia's issue Saturday in losing to Villanova did not appear to be one of wearing down. In fact, the Mountaineers used more players against the Wildcats than they had in the last three. Casey Mitchell was allowed to return to the team and played nine minutes, and Jonnie West got off the bench to try to make some shots, although he played just two minutes.
Still, that meant nine Mountaineers hit the floor after just seven played against both Louisville and Cincinnati and eight against Seton Hall.
And here's the kicker: Villanova played less than West Virginia. The Wildcats used only eight, and one of those played only two minutes.
"Honestly, I don't think it affects us that much,'' said Kevin Jones, who leads West Virginia in minutes played and ranks sixth in the Big East in that category. "And it doesn't have anything to do with losing Danny [Jennings, who quit the team four games ago]. He wasn't playing that many minutes anyway, so it's really no different now than it's been all year.''
True, but the reality is that in playing a limited number of players most of the year, the effects would logically show up later in the season. If that's the case, this is when West Virginia would start to wear down, with eight games remaining in the regular season.
To compound matters, now comes the quickest turnaround of the season. The Mountaineers play again Monday at home against No. 4 Pitt, the first of two straight Big Monday games. West Virginia has time off after the Pitt game (four days), but then repeats the task next weekend, playing host to DePaul on Saturday and then going to Syracuse on Monday.