MORGANTOWN - Coach Bob Huggins admittedly feels much better about the West Virginia men's basketball team as it prepares for the 2013-14 season.
He and his assistants are allowed to work with their players during the off-season for two hours each week for a period of only eight weeks. Then the Mountaineers will continue to practice individually on their own.
Huggins, now in his 32nd year as a head coach, believes "our chances are very good" going into the upcoming campaign. WVU posted a disappointing 13-19 record last season - its first as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
"I think we weren't prepared for the Big 12 last year," Huggins said.
"I coached in that conference (one season at Kansas State), and that was six years prior, and it was a totally different deal."
He recalled that the Big 12 was divided into North and South divisions that season. And you had the Nebraskas and Colorados, among others, as conference members. He considered it a different league then it is now.
"You had a different commissioner, you had a different supervisor of officials," Huggins continued. "The whole thing is different.
"Honestly, we weren't as well prepared maybe as we will be hopefully this time to travel (for road games). I think they're going to give us some relief. I'm very confident.
"The league conceivably could schedule us for games on Saturday/Big Monday or even Wednesday/Saturday (for one-trip combinations)."
Huggins pointed out that this would eliminate one trip for those two occasions together.
He also noted that most of the schools in "Cowboy Country" are only an hour anyway via plane travel.
"If we could play somewhere on Wednesday and somewhere else on Saturday when we're not in school, or if we were going to play on a Saturday/Monday home set if in fact Monday was a separate away game."
Those two things would save West Virginia two trips on the road schedule, he noted. It is clearly encouraging to him that such planning will be a big relief.
Asked why such relief wasn't sought a year ago, Huggins replied:
"I don't think anybody really realized the full extent of the move (from the Big East).
"It's not that we didn't think about the travel. We thought about the travel.
"But then you think about it is in another time zone. An 8 o'clock game there is a 9 o'clock game for us. So we don't leave their arena until well after midnight. And then you gotta go through preparing to get on the plane.
"Then we don't get back here until 4 o'clock in the morning and sometimes later than that."
As a result, he believes something has to be done to eliminate some of the trips the Mountaineers must take. He also said some other things also have to be done, including the officiating.
The philosophy and style of play were different from those in the Big East and WVU had already had little time to adjust when changing conferences.
"It was hard to make any adjustments, and I'm not telling you I didn't know going in because I did know going in."