The team cut Esa Ahmad and Wes Harris on Monday night. A reason for the dismissals wasn’t given. Both players are starters for the Mountaineers.
Ahmad is a senior forward and was the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 12 points per game. He also a top rebounder for the Mountaineers, averaging 5.8 per game. Harris, a sophomore forward, averaged 7.9 points a game and 4.5 rebounds.
WVU’s already tough season gets tougher
It has been a tough season for the team. The dismissals come on the heels of injuries to Beetle Bolden and Sagaba Konate. This latest news makes four starters unable to take the court for tip-off.
This year the Mountaineers are 10-14 and 2-9 in Big 12 play.
Bob Huggins’ team sits in the last place in the conference. They have lost 10 of their last 12 games, including a 75-53 shellacking to Texas on Saturday.
West Virginia sports betting gets its first shot of accepting wagers on March Madness. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like those bets will be on WVU. Making the NCAA tournament is a long shot, to say the least, and the team is looking to regroup after the dismissals.
Just last year, WVU made it three rounds deep last year in the NCAA basketball tournament before falling to eventual champion Villanova.
Will WVU rally or just call it a season?
Will players rally with Ahmad and Harris gone, or sink even more?
The Mountaineers battle No. 7-ranked Kansas (19-6) on Saturday with the Jayhawks favored by 4.
Smart money might move in the direction of Kansas. The game is in Lawrence, but the Mountaineers were able to pull out a 1-point win over the Jayhawks in the teams’ first matchup on Jan. 19. A second upset win looks like it may be a tough prospect after losing two crucial players.
While Huggins remains silent on the reasons for both dismissals, he is talking about the team stepping up. Huggins commented to Charleston Gazette-Mail:
“I think it is a completely different roster. Esa made two 3s and a 2 when we got back in the game [last time against Kansas], so obviously he’s not going to be there. We’re just going to have to have some other people step up that really haven’t stepped up this year yet. We’ve lost the guys who have really been the leaders of the team, so those other people are going to have to step up.
“I don’t think we’re going to make drastic changes, we’re just going to have different people doing it, that’s all. It’s hard to make drastic changes on a couple days of practice. We’ll just have other people step up and do what those other guys did.”
The game may offer some insight into what to expect in the rest of the season. The Mountaineers will have six more games remaining on the schedule including a couple of tough matchups with No. 18 Kansas State and No. 23 Iowa State. WVU lost to the Wildcats by 2 earlier in the season and were drilled by the Cyclones, 93-68.
Bettors in West Virginia may be watching to see if there is some value in some of those upcoming games.