West Virginia doesn’t need many incentives to be excited for what’s next.
The Mountaineers will travel to Portland to participate in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament where the program will open things up against Purdue before playing either Gonzaga or Portland in the second round with a win or loss.
From there, depending on the results West Virginia will take on one of Duke, Xavier, Florida or Oregon State for a difficult slate over a four-day span.
The matchup with Purdue, who is undefeated, is challenging enough to start. The Boilermakers possess a talent big man in 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey and plenty of pieces around him. That game is slated to tipoff at 10 p.m. Nov. 24, before the Mountaineers prepare for Gonzaga or Portland the following day which will again be another late tipoff with it set to start around midnight on the east coast.
“I think we’re excited for it. I think our guys are excited for it. It tells us where we are and what else we’ve got to improve upon and those kind of things,” head coach Bob Huggins said.
Huggins has had plenty of success in early season tournaments during his coaching career and hasn’t backed away from the challenges these events can provide.
That’s because in large part playing in events like this give his team a chance to have the closest thing available to a simulation of what they could expect to see in the NCAA Tournament. It’s only a small portion of the schedule, but it is something that can set the tone for things early on in the season.
West Virginia currently sits at 4-0, but things could get interesting in a hurry depending on the results out West given what the potential of three consecutive matchups against power programs.
“Let’s say we go 3-0 out there, that’s huge. That puts us in a different category,” Huggins said. “But if you go 0-3 you’re struggling to catch up.”
These are the types of games that players that come to West Virginia expect to play in and while this tournament wasn’t necessarily a recruiting pitch when it came to assembling this roster, it didn’t hurt.
But ultimately this roster was put together based on opportunity and this is certainly a big one for this club so early in the season and with plenty of questions remaining.
“I think the biggest thing we sold was opportunity. Opportunity to be what this program has been minus a year ago. To get us back to where we are nationally relevant. To get us back to where we’re not just going to play in the NCAA Tournament but advance,” Huggins said. “This is a great opportunity.”
It’s up to the Mountaineers to take advantage of it.