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October 11, 2012

Mountaineers picked sixth

West Virginia was picked sixth in the Big 12 basketball preseason coaches' poll Thursday as the Mountaineers prepare to enter their first season in the league.

The Mountaineers were selected behind Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas State, but finished ahead of Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas Tech and TCU.

The Mountaineers will be tasked with the challenge of replacing senior stalwarts Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant and will feature a re-tooled roster made up with a mix of transfers and returning players.

However, head coach Bob Huggins feels good about his squad and believes that this team has the makings of a 25-win team if it wasn't for the difficult schedule ahead.

"If we're the sixth team in the league, it's going to be a hell of a league," he said.

"We've got a chance to be pretty good, I've said it all along and I haven't seen anything that would make me feel otherwise," he said.

Due to the round robin schedule in the Big 12, Huggins believes that the balance will allow a true champion to be determined, something that wasn't possible in the Big East Conference due to the unbalanced schedules.

"You're going to find out who the best teams are 1-10," he said. "Where before you didn't because of the schedule."

The Mountaineers finished the 2011-12 season with a 19-14 record and a second round exit in the NCAA Tournament after losing to Gonzaga. However, at one point West Virginia was sitting at 15-6 with a young team a season ago but that experience that the younger players took away should only help the Mountaineers moving forward.

"We're going to do more things. We did a lot of things to change the game last year and none of them were positive," he said. "We're going to try to do some things to positively change the game."

West Virginia added experienced assistant head coach and former Duquesne head coach Ron Everhart in the offseason, and that also should help the Mountaineers in a number of ways.

"I'm probably the only guy in the country that has three former head coaches as assistants on his staff," Huggins said. "Ronnie has seen a lot of different styles, different ways to do things, it's been terrific."

West Virginia kicks off the season next Friday night for an intersquad scrimmage, but will officially begin play on the road in a rematch against Gonzaga Nov. 13 at midnight as part of ESPN's 24-hours of college basketball.

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