“For whatever reason, we weren’t all that excited about playing, I don’t think,” Huggins said on Thursday’s Big East coaches conference call. “You get so many young guys and the season seems longer for them than what it really is.”
That comment was one of two the head coach offered about the length of the season and the pitfalls of having several young players on his West Virginia roster -- something he said he “didn’t want to hear about” on his postgame radio appearance after the 78-62 loss -- during what was a brief appearance on the teleconference.
The second comment came as part of a discussion about the parity in the Big East this season, as evidenced by result’s like those of Wednesday night.
“Syracuse certainly is an elite team, but we may not be quite as good on the top as we have been. But the people on the bottom are substantially better as well,” Huggins said. “There’s been some great coaching hires in our league, guys that have done a great job coaching their teams.
“The talent level is maybe as equal as it’s been, outside of Syracuse. When that happens, it’s a long year, and you’re dealing with young kids that sometimes their priorities aren’t what yours are.”
While WVU struggled to score against the morphing 1-2-2 zone St. John’s employed Wednesday, the veteran coach said that tactic didn’t come as a surprise. Players worked against the zone in practices before the game, he emphasized on his radio appearance Wednesday night.
And it wasn’t as though West Virginia was just bad on offense, he said.
“We have so much tape available to us that you know what they’re going to do,” Huggins said. “We knew they were going to be ready to play. We just couldn’t convey to our guys how good they were. Maybe we’ve been worse before, but I can’t remember when we’ve been worse defensively. They just did whatever they wanted to do.”
The Mountaineers (15-6, 5-3) have precious little time to lick their wounds before heading back to the Empire State for Saturday’s game at No. 4 Syracuse.
The Orange (21-1, 8-1) started the season 20-0 before falling at Notre Dame 67-58 on Saturday. They quickly bounced back, winning at Cincinnati 60-53 on Monday.
“Obviously they’re really good,” Huggins said. “They’ve got a lot of players. Jim [Boeheim] does a great job putting them in positions where they can be successful. We’ve got to get a whole lot better in a very short period of time, or it will be a long night for us on Saturday.”
“They score so much off their defense. It’s like they’re constantly running downhill at you. We’re going to have to do a much better job of ball security than what we did last night.”
So after saying he thought his team wasn’t excited for Wednesday’s game at St. John’s, does the head coach have any similar worries heading into the Carrier Dome?
“We’re looking forward to playing Syracuse. Well, I think we are,” Huggins said dryly. “I am anyway.”