MORGANTOWN - West Virginia's first season in the Big 12 could be a test of coach Bob Huggins' streak of five consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament since taking over at his alma mater.
The Mountaineers lost more than half of their scoring production with the graduations of top scorer and rebounder Kevin Jones and guard Darryl "Truck'' Bryant.
That's where Huggins is taking the glass-half-full approach. Sure, Jones was the top scorer and rebounder in the Big East last season, but Bryant's shooting woes won't be missed and he also was part of a problem that plagued the Mountaineers all season - lapses in defense.
Deniz Kilicli is the top returner at 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and he'll get help from three transfers. Center Aaric Murray and guard Juwan Staten sat out last season after transferring from LaSalle and Dayton, respectively.
Matt Humphrey became eligible immediately as a graduate student after averaging 10.3 points for Boston College in 2011-12 and leading the team with 34 steals. He played at Oregon for two years before sitting out the 2010-11 season.
Staten is coming off minor knee surgery and played most of a 40-minute scrimmage last week, scoring 14 points and dishing out eight assists.
As a sophomore, Murray led LaSalle in scoring at 15.2 points a game and in rebounding at 7.7. He missed several months of preparation time since transferring with a broken hand but is healed up and brings a shot-blocking and offensive rebounding threat at center.
"He's not real comfortable right now because we're moving him around,'' Huggins said. "He's on the perimeter and he's never really been on the perimeter that much. I think he's getting better. He's understanding better. He gives us somebody around the goal, which we haven't had.
"We're asking him to do a lot more things than he's done before.''
Among the other top returnees are guard Jabarie Hinds, who was fourth in scoring last season at 7.4 points a game and led the Mountaineers with 108 assists; forwards Dominique Rutledge and Keaton Miles, and 6-foot-10 sophomore Kevin Noreen, who missed the final 10 games last season with a broken ankle.
Sophomores Gary Browne and Aaron Brown will provide depth at guard behind Staten.
"It helps us. You've got more than one guy you trust with the ball,'' Huggins said. "This is the first time we've actually had more than one guy who can dribble it more than a couple of times. It's actually kind of refreshing.''
Huggins said he anticipates moving the ball up the floor at a faster tempo due to the availability of more players.