Colleges

JOE SULLIVAN | ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Bob Huggins: Sometimes controversial, always a winner

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins celebrates his 800th career win at the conclusion of an NCAA college basketball game against UMKC, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia defeated UMKC 112-67. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
Raymond Thompson/AP
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins celebrates his 800th career win Saturday.

He has been vilified for a poor graduation rate when he was at Cincinnati. His teams’ behavior was sometimes viewed as overly physical and confrontational. He openly argued with his players at times, player and coach screaming at each other. He was arrested for DUI.

Through it all, he’s been a winner. Critics of Bob Huggins can’t deny that. Huggy Bear recorded his 800th career victory Saturday when West Virginia beat Missouri-Kansas City, 112-67.

What’s remarkable about Huggins is his transformation from a half-court offensive mind-set coupled with rugged defense at Cincinnati and Kansas State to a more wide-open offense fueled by a manic full-court press at West Virginia. You just don’t see that kind of change by a coach in his later years.

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Huggins is the 10th coach to reach 800 NCAA victories. He’s had two Final Four appearances (1992 with Cincinnati and 2010 with West Virginia), four Elite Eight appearances, seven Sweet 16 appearances, and 10 conference championships.

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“Eight-hundred wins. How do you pick one?’’ Huggins answered when asked about his favorite victory. “I can’t do it. I like beating Cal [John Calipari], but that’s way more than one.’’

Meanwhile, in college basketball last week:

ELEVATOR GOING UP

Arizona: Injuries and academics have reduced the Wildcats to a seven-man rotation, but slowly coach Sean Miller is adjusting. The Wildcats had a nice 67-63 victory over Texas A&M in Houston Saturday for their fourth straight victory.

Arkansas: The Hogs have played only one true road game (a loss to Minnesota), but they had a nice neutral-court win over Texas Saturday to go to 9-1 with a six-game winning streak.

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Kansas State: The Wildcats are 10-1 and the schedule has been soft, but they had a better-than-you-think win over Colorado State in Denver Saturday.

Monmouth: The Hawks (9-2) should have been invited to the NCAA Tournament last season but the sad fact is they’ll probably have to win the MAAC tournament to get there this season. They haven’t stopped trying to earn an at-large berth and proved that by winning at Memphis last week, their eighth win in a row. Their two losses were at South Carolina and at Syracuse. They play at North Carolina Dec. 28.

Since losing at Syracuse Nov. 18, Josh James and Monmouth have reeled off eight straight wins.
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images/File
Since losing at Syracuse Nov. 18, Josh James and Monmouth have reeled off eight straight wins.

New Mexico State: The Aggies are the orphan of conference realignment; stuck in the WAC as most of their old rivals moved on to other leagues. However, the Aggies look like they will dominate the WAC again. They beat Arizona State 81-70 in Tempe Saturday for their eighth straight win and their first road win over a Power 5 conference since 1994-95. Plus they’ve beaten nonconference rivals New Mexico and UTEP during the streak.

Seton Hall: The Hall handed South Carolina its first loss in a game played at Madison Square Garden, then took care of Delaware for its fifth straight victory. The Pirates are 9-2 and will be a factor in the ultra-tough Big East.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders chalked up a nice road win at Richmond Saturday and have won seven straight. First-year coach Chris Beard is having great success.

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Virginia Tech: The Hokies are a lot better this year and Citadel coach Duggar Baucom, whose team took a 113-71 loss in Blacksburg Saturday, is sort of taking credit. “I sat here two years ago when I was at VMI and we played Buzz [Williams] in his first year. I said, ‘The ACC better get him this year before he gets his guys in here.’ I think I have become a prophet.’’ Tech is 9-1 with a five-game winning streak.

ESCALATOR GOING DOWN

DePaul: A romp over Chicago State on Saturday cannot remove the stench of an intracity loss to Illinois-Chicago earlier in the week.

Michigan State: Sparty’s consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (19) could be in danger. What else can you think about a home loss to Northeastern Sunday night? I love the fact that Michigan State played a home-and-home with NU, and it’s a great win for the Huskies, but the loss is a reflection of how this season is going in East Lansing.

Northeastern's Jeremy Miller (11) is in position for the rebound in the Huskies’ win at Michigan State Sunday.
Al Goldis/AP
Northeastern's Jeremy Miller (11) is in position for the rebound in the Huskies’ win at Michigan State Sunday.

Mississippi State: At some point, Ben Howland will have success at Mississippi State, I believe. Not this season. The Bulldogs lost at home to East Tennessee last week and also have a home loss to Lehigh.

Missouri: It’s been a grim season. Last week’s bad loss: 67-64 to Eastern Illinois at home.

Morehead State: A bad week all around as coach Sean Woods resigned following allegations of player abuse and the Eagles’ losing streak reached eight games.

Oklahoma: What kind of season the Sooners are going to have is in question. They’ve played a tough schedule, but have lost three of their last four, including a home game against Memphis Saturday.

St. John’s: Permanent residence on the escalator. The latest bad loss: 92-76 to Penn State at Madison Square Garden Sunday. The box score has no figure for attendance. I can only guess how bad it was. I refer you to a prophetic column from Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger.

Texas El Paso: The Miners are a disaster at 2-7 after losing a home game to Northern Arizona. Their losing streak has reached six games. Big Daddy David Lattin can’t believe it.

THIS WEEK’S FINAL FOUR: Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Villanova.

THIS WEEK’S NATIONAL CHAMPION: UCLA. See this:

Joe Sullivan can be reached at joseph.sullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan