MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It has been perhaps the longest and most frustrating season of Bob Huggins' coaching career.
The losses, the travel, the infuriating lapses interrupted by all-too-brief glimpses of potential.
More likely than not, it is about to come to a merciful end. West Virginia begins play Wednesday night in the Big 12 tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The Mountaineers might well end play that night, too. If not then, surely the end will come shortly after that.
There has been little to indicate that this is a team capable of lasting very long in a lose-and-go-home format. And unlike almost every other season of Huggins' 31-year coaching career (23 straight, in fact) when the Mountaineers lose in the Big 12 tournament, that will be it.
No NCAA tournament. No NIT. No nothin'.
You would think Huggins can't wait for it to end, and in a way that might be true. After all, there's recruiting to be done, an offseason to start, so that this doesn't happen again.
Huggins, though, doesn't sound like a coach who thinks it is about to end. Despite all that has happened, he still believes there can be a light at the end of the tunnel that is not an oncoming train.
"I think we're capable. I think we're capable of playing with just about anybody on a given night,'' Huggins said Monday. "I still think we can make a run.''
OK, so maybe he's the only one who thinks that. Or maybe not.
"We've got the tools and the pieces to win,'' freshman guard Terry Henderson said. "We can still do it.''
The truth is, there have been glimmers of hope from this team. It has played well in stretches against most of the best teams it has faced this season. Even of late, when simply playing out the string might be expected, it hasn't happened. The Mountaineers cut a 27-point deficit to four against Iowa State on Saturday.
Huggins looks at that and doesn't see a team that has quit on him.
"I think when you get down by 27 in the second half and cut it to four, I think obviously you still think you can win,'' Huggins said. "This hasn't been the greatest practice team I've ever had, but they haven't been the worst, either. I think their attitude is still fine.''