MORGANTOWN - Were it not for the very nature of coaches - all coaches, not just West Virginia's - Bob Huggins might find himself content with what his Mountaineers have accomplished through the first 20 games of the season.
West Virginia is, after all, 15-5 despite playing what is statistically regarded as one of the most difficult schedules in the country with a roster that includes only three players with significant college experience and five freshmen playing crucial roles in what has pretty much become an eight-man rotation.
After Saturday's 77-74 overtime win against Cincinnati at the Coliseum the Mountaineers were No. 11 in the unofficial Rating Percentage Index rankings with a schedule rated No. 2 in the country. They are also 5-2 in the Big East and tied for third place, just a half-game back of 6-2 Georgetown - over which WVU owns a tie-breaker - and a game-and-a-half behind top-ranked Syracuse, 7-1 after falling at Notre Dame on Saturday.
So, is content the right word? Of course not.
"No, I think we should have beaten Baylor,'' Huggins said. "All we had to do was make a free throw.''
Indeed, there have been games along the way that perhaps the Mountaineers should have won. The Baylor game in Las Vegas stands out, as does a loss at Connecticut in which WVU lost a double-digit lead. A home loss to Kent State perhaps would not happen again now that all those freshmen have gained experience, which leaves only poorly played games on the road at Mississippi State and Seton Hall gumming up the works. And those two teams are 16-4 and 15-4, respectively, so there's little shame in those losses.
Granted, there have also been wins along the way that could easily have been losses. The Mountaineers have played four overtime games this season and won three, including in two extra periods in a win over Kansas State.
All in all, though, WVU's season couldn't have gone much better than it has to date given all of that youth. Guards Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds seem to be always on the floor when games are on the line. Keaton Miles has started all 20 games. Aaron Brown and redshirt freshman Kevin Noreen combine to play nearly 30 minutes per game.
Yes, the core of the team is still Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli, but Huggins is fairly satisfied - if certainly not content - with the way the freshmen have worked their way in.
"We're getting better. We're getting better every time we go out there,'' Huggins said. "But we play pretty good for a while and then we have those lapses where they don't do what they're supposed to do. But honestly, [against Cincinnati] we were supposed to double a ball screen and Deniz didn't double it. And then we were supposed to switch an out-of-bounds and K.J. didn't switch it. So it's not just them.