(KDKA)- On Tuesday night, West Virginia Mountaineers men's basketball coach Bob Huggins moved into a tie for sixth on the all-time coaching wins list with a 65-47 victory over Oklahoma State.
The win is the 879th of Huggins' career placing him into a tie with former North Carolina coach Dean Smith. While Huggins isn't one to care much about personal accolades, saying after the game he doesn't pay attention to those things, his ascent up the all-time wins list ranks highlights just how dominant he has been between his stops at Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State and West Virginia. Huggins' teams have been known for their aggressive, hard-nosed defenses that are a nightmare to play against, routinely ranking near the top of national leader boards.
Yet, despite all the success, Huggins remains on the outside looking in of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Once again this year, Huggins was on the list of candidates for induction, but once again he missed making the list of finalists. Though he won't make the trip to Springfield again this year, CBS Sports Network insider Jon Rothstein says it is only a matter of time.
"He is a Hall of Famer even if he is not yet in the Hall of Fame. But that's inevitable," said Rothstein. "There are very few guarantees in college basketball but one of them is that Bob Huggins is going to have a great team every year."
At this point, Huggins has the most wins of any Division I men's coach not in the Hall of Fame as all of the guys ahead of him have already made the trip to Springfield. Though his induction will have to wait for another year, Huggins is more focused on the here and now, and the Mountaineers victory Tuesday night snapped a three game losing skid. Now 19-7 on the year and 7-6 in Big 12 play, the Mountaineers appear to be firmly on their way back to the Big Dance after missing the tournament last season.
As expected, defense has been the key. The Mountaineers rank 1st in Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency ratings. The problem has been on offense where they have been inconsistent at best.
"They're an elite defensive team, they're one of the best defensive teams in the country. Offense remains an issue," said Rothstein. "I talked to Bob Huggins on (last) Monday and he told me that the biggest thing they need to do going forward is just shoot the basketball better. Last week against Oklahoma, they missed 22 shots within 2 feet from the rim."
On the season, the team is shooting just 47.9% from inside the arc (259th DI) and a ghastly 29.6% from three point range (328th). Neither of those marks inspire confidence in a deep tournament run, but the pair of young forwards in freshman Oscar Tshiebwe and sophomore Derek Culver do offer hope. The pair has combined for 21 points and 17 rebounds per game so far. This is one of the younger teams that Huggins has fielded with three sophomores and one freshman in the starting lineup and another freshman (Miles McBride) and sophomore (Sean McNeil) seeing big minutes as well.
This year's team will be a tough out in the tournament because of the defense that always seems to give teams fits come tournament time. But, the foundation moving forward looks even stronger as Huggins chases the one other elusive accomplishment missing from his resume: a national championship.
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