The West Virginia Mountaineers went into Big 12 conference play as a KenPom darling and a 10-4 record with NCAA Tournament aspirations. Fast forward to Saturday and Bob Huggins and the Mounties are 0-5 in Big 12 conference play after a 77-76 loss to Oklahoma. It was another backbreaker and now it’s looking more and more like WVU won’t qualify for March Madness again this season. With the Big 12 gauntlet tough to navigate and the Mountaineers on track for another letdown season, does that mean Huggins’ job is in jeopardy? Let’s take a look.
As a WVU alumnus, the easy and quick answer is no. Sure, Huggins has had his struggles here and there but the Mountaineers get to the tourney more often than not. It’s also hard to envision WVU firing Huggins. It would have to be Huggins retiring or some kind of mutual agreement to part ways. Still, it’s tough seeing Huggins leaving the Mountaineers for another school. WVU isn’t going to find a better coach than Huggins and he’ll likely retire with the team.
This is also a pretty unique team. It’s mostly transfers, which impacts chemistry. The team also lacks a true point guard. Kedrian Johnson isn’t great offensively and Joe Toussaint is inconsistent at best. Both are fine guards but neither have command of the offense.
You also have Erik Stevenson, which could deserve his own article at this point. Trey Mitchell and Emmitt Matthews Jr. have been streaky and aren’t playing to their potential, which is concerning if we’re talking Huggins’ job security. This team was ranked before Big 12 play and are now down to 10-7 and have A LOT of work to do to make the tournament.
Can Huggins turn this thing around? Of course. WVU has been in most of these losses but haven’t been able to close things out. The issue is four of the next five games are against ranked opponents. That could be viewed as good or bad. If WVU can rip off a few wins and get 2-3 over ranked teams, that helps their tourney case. The schedule is never going to get easy in the Big 12, but that’s important when you’re looking for quality wins.
So really the only way Huggins gets fired is if this thing gets really bad. We’re talking another 4 or 5 losses in a row (which could happen to be honest). Even then, thinking about it, you really can’t let go of Huggs mid-season anyway. Maybe the team assesses things after the season. WVU has advanced to the Sweet 16 three times since 2015, which a good majority of programs in college basketball would gladly take.
WVU shouldn’t fire Huggs this offseason no matter how bad it gets. But if it does get grim and you miss out on the tourney again, there needs to be a serious conversation with Huggins about his future and whether or not retirement is on the horizon. Because then a contingency plan with a potential heir apparent would make sense. That could be former Mountaineer Alex Ruoff, who is on the coaching staff and would make a lot of sense. You could also try and pry Joe Mazzulla away from the Boston Celtics (which will be difficult).