With players such as Marcus Smart staying at Oklahoma State for his sophomore season and the likes of Andrew Wiggins and DeAndre Kane entering the league with Kansas and Iowa State, respectively, the talent level in the conference will be as high as ever.
And with Tubby Smith taking over as the head coach at Texas Tech, six Big 12 coaches – including Huggins – have led teams to the Final Four.
Those things mean that the Mountaineers’ continued acclimation to the conference will be even more vital heading into this season.
“It was a big learning experience,” Huggins said of West Virginia's first year in the league. “It was a different style of league than the one we came from, and I think obviously with that, the officiating was different. A year in, and knowing a little bit better what to expect, we’ll be a lot better ready to deal with those things -- certainly a lot better than we did a year ago.”
The Mountaineers will likely have to look to a young group of players to lead this season’s team that is made up of seven incoming players and just one senior. Two underclassmen who are looking to take on those roles will be sophomore guards Terry Henderson and Eron Harris.
“The best part is that they want to (lead),” Huggins said. “Both of those guys are guys that understood that we lacked a little veteran leadership a year ago, and playing all the minutes both of those guys played last year, they both feel like they’re ready and willing and capable to lead.”
Harris started 17 games as a freshman – averaging a team-best 9.8 points per game – and Henderson averaged eight points in his 11 starts while leading the team in 3-point shooting percentage.
The two sophomores are part of a group of Mountaineers participating in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Summer League that started Monday in Greentree, Pa.
Huggins believes the summer league will be nice for his WVU team as it is preparing to improve on its 13-19 record from a season ago. The finish was the Mountaineers’ worst season since they went 8-20 in 2001-02.
“You play against the same guys every day all summer and this just gives them an opportunity to play,” Huggins said. “Pitt’s players are there. It gives them a chance to play against different guys with maybe different skill sets.”
The veteran head coach mentioned that there is a chance Harris, who spent the majority of his freshman year at shooting guard, could move to point guard at times as a sophomore.
“We recruited him as a combo. We had a couple of guys who were primarily point guards a year ago so we didn’t play him all that much there,” Huggins said. “I think he’s embraced it. He gives us another guy on the floor who can score.
“It’s great to have a guy on the point who can score. Obviously Eron can do that.”
As always, Huggins expects his team will need to be prepared for a battle every night once the season starts – especially with all of the talent both on the court playing and coaching on the sidelines in the Big 12.
“It makes it hard. I don’t know if there’s ever been a league ever where 60 percent of their coaches coached in the Final Four,” Huggins said. “That’s extremely impressive, and of course a few of those guys have won national championships.
“This is more of a league where they spread you out. It’s more of a penetrate-and-pitch league. In the Big 12 they play smaller, it’s more of a skill league.”