Posted on: April 3, 2010 11:48 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2010 8:17 am
If you're a West Virginia fan, things really couldn't have gone much worse for you on Saturday night. Your team got beaten on the boards and their usually stout defense suddenly disappeared, allowing Duke to shoot 53% from the field and their "Big 3" of Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith to combine for 63 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds. And, worst of all, your All-American senior Da'Sean Butler put up one of the worst stat lines you could have hoped for: 10 points, three rebounds and one awful knee injury.
It was that knee injury, though, which occurred about midway through the second half, that gave West Virginia something they could smile about on a night that they'd been waiting for since 1959.
Mountaineer fans don't have to be told what a great coach they have in Morgantown. They've seen it on the court the past three years as the homegrown coaching titan has racked up 80 wins, 31 of which came this year. But, outside of West Virginia's state lines, Bob Huggins' name doesn't quite carry the same reverence.
Few coaches in the game get as much flack from fans and media as Bob Huggins (including the devilish one on the opposing sideline for this game). Some of it's because he's short with the media. Some of it is because of the physical nature of his teams. Some probably stems from his DUI arrest and, honestly, some of it is probably because the guy has more track suits than Carl Lewis. But, as his star player laid twisting in pain after his leg gave out on him, Bob Huggins was as far removed from that "monster in a track suit" reputation he's found affixed to himself.
After taking a verbal shot at the referee in defense of Butler, Huggins huddled over the senior, held his head and tried to calm him down by whispering closely. He wiped tears off of Butler's eyes and clutched him as if he was his own child. When it was time for Butler to leave the court, Bob Huggins stood, visibly shaken and teary-eyed.
It was a glimpse into a close bond that Huggins so famously develops between his players and, I'm proud to say, it's the type of kindness that I've been privileged to experience.
When I was 13, I attended the Bob Huggins Basketball Camp at the University of Cincinnati and, despite being about 6'5" and in the eighth grade, no one was mistaking me for a prospect. I was one of the kids who was there just to step on the floor at the Shoemaker Center and see Danny Fortson up close. You didn't have to pass a skills test to get into the camp and I can promise you that none of the coaches were starting a "Thomas Beisner" file.
I learned pretty quickly, though, that that didn't really matter much.
On one of my first nights at the camp, stuck without a roommate or a television, I left the dorm and wandered over to the gym, figuring that I'd just shoot around and kill some time. After messing around for awhile, I heard someone walking through the gym behind me and turned to see the man whose name was printed on my t-shirt in size-52 font. Yep, Bob Huggins was in the building. And I was terrified.
I figured this encounter would end with me either getting in trouble and getting kicked out or with Cincinnati's head coach completely ignoring the most awkward evening workout in Bearcat history and just walking away. Instead, much to my 13-year old surprise, I got an introduction and a private 20-minute instruction session with a coach who was just a few months removed from the Elite Eight and surely had something better to do at 9pm than work with a talent-less eighth-grader.
For those twenty minutes, he was a lot more "Huggy Bear" than he ever shows on TV and he helped me with mechanics on my jump shot, making me flick my wrist and bend my Osgood Schlatter knees more. Not realizing what a hopeless endeavor it was, he had me fire off jumper after jumper, observing and rebounding (when they came close to him), giving me the attentiveness one would show their own kid. He made small talk with me about my Texas high school and I think he even smiled a few times. He seemed to be enjoying working with this lanky, acne-faced teenager as much as this lanky, acne-faced teenager enjoyed working with him.
As you might expect, my basketball career didn't work out too well. Despite Huggins' best efforts that night in the Shoemaker Center, I never got a sniff of a D-1 scholarship and I never ended up in Rivals' database. I'm pretty sure that I didn't even get to meet Danny Fortson that week. But, for the past 13 years, I've carried an incredible memory and a great deal of respect for Bob Huggins that has nothing to do with his wins and losses. After watching his touching moment with Da'Sean Butler on Saturday, I think the whole nation just might too.
Posted on: April 3, 2010 12:52 pm
Edited on: April 3, 2010 12:54 pm
Here we are, just hours away from the Final Four. We have seen 61 teams fall off the path to the championship and only four remain. No, Kansas is not one of them. No, Kentucky lost too. Yeah, and Syracuse. It has been crazy. Anyway, here are 10 questions that are on everyone's minds as the 2010 NCAA Tournament winds down...
Will the Blue Devils find revenge?
#7 West Virginia upset #2 Duke 73-67 in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Duke will certainly have vengeance on its mind tonight. All five Duke starters played in that '08 West Region game in Washington D.C. West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler and Joe Mazzulla combined for 21 points in the upset.
Can the Spartans keep rolling without Lucas?
When Kalin Lucas went down with a torn achilles tendon late in the first half of Michigan State's win over Maryland, everyone wrote the Spartans off. Then Korie Lucious shocked us all with a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Terps. The Spartans then moved on to a win over Kansas Northern Iowa and another late miracle to beat Tennessee in the Elite Eight.
Did you know Butler is only 6.02 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium?
And, did you know Hoosiers was filmed at Butler's Hinkle Field House? Did you know that? Of course you did. And, like me, I'm sure you're tired of hearing about it.
Will Darryl "Truck" Bryant return for West Virginia?
The Mountaineers' point guard broke his foot in practice before the Sweet Sixteen and is dying to get back on the court. Bryant is listed as "highly unlikely" which basically means "he definitely won't play but it's the Final Four so everything is a storyline."
Gordon Hayward can't really be that good - can he?
Yes, he can and he is. I know he doesn't pass the looks test but Gordon Hayward is a future NBA pick. The Horizon League Player of the Year averaged just under 16 points on the season and has been even more impressive in the tournament. He scored 22 points in Butler's win over Kansas State and 17 in the win over Syracuse. Hayward's the real deal. (Insert Hoosier's reference)
Does anyone outside of Durham like the Blue Devils?
It certainly doesn't seem like it. Even the Indianapolis Star got in on the hate. No one can really explain why (other than Coach K's facial expressions and the flopping) but it seems that the entire nation can agree on one thing - everyone despises Duke. Everyone.
Hey, did you know Butler is only 6.02 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium?
Oh, you did? Well, it's also where Hoosi... I did? I said that already? I'm sorry. Just making sure you knew that. Carry on.
Can Huggy Bear finally get his ring?
Love him or hate him, Bob Huggins is one of the best to do it and he finally has the chance to win the grand prize The Huggy Bear is in his first Final Four since 1992 and he has his alma mater there for the first time since 1959. It's easy to point out graduation rates, his players' off the court issues, and his classic D.U.I. video with vomit on the driver's side door - but let's not forget that Huggins is a hell of a basketball coach. Add to the fact that he is facing Coach K, and he is finally that guy we can root for. Plus his mafia style tracksuits say, "I want to win, but I'm here to party."
Who will win it all?
Many believe the Duke-West Virginia semifinal game is the national championship game. The Blue Devils and the Mountaineers are undoubtedly the two best teams left and if Dick Vitale had his way, the committee would reseed the Final Four. While it's certainly not impossible for Butler or Michigan to win it all (never doubt Tom Izzo,) whoever advances between Duke and WV will be feeling good heading into the title game.
Is Jennifer Hudson singing "One Shining Moment?"
Yes she is. I don't agree with it, either.
Posted on: April 2, 2010 8:55 pm
West Virginia University
Dub-V, as it’s called by the local hooligans, is a public university in Morgantown, WV where classes are attended between hangovers and happy hour. At one time, WVU was the #1 party school in the nation.
Location: Morgantown, WV
Morgantown consumes 1% of Anheuser-Busch’s alcohol sales ever year. I’m not even mad. I’m impressed.
-- Billy Mays - Halloween 2009's most played out costume
-- Don Knotts -Actor most famously known for his role in Air Buddies, the sixth film in the Air Bud series.
-- Pacman Jones - Specialist of aerial Federal Reserve Note disbursement, dealing mostly with single mothers
-- Jerry West - The silhouette in the NBA logo
Mascot: The Mountaineers
The Mountaineer was adopted in 1890 as the official school mascot and unofficially began appearing at sporting events in 1927. The new Mountaineer is selected each year by the Mountain Honorary during the final two men's home basketball games. Candidates must have at least a 2.5 GPA, write an essay about why they want to be the Mountaineer, attend an extensive interview process and garner the most cheers during the home basketball game.
Cheerleader Scouting Report
Bob Huggins, Head Coach
Bob Huggins is a 1977 graduate of West Virginia. He is in his third season as the Mountaineers head coach after a roller coaster career that included stops at Walsh, Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State, and Liquor Barn.
The Starting Five
Posted on: April 2, 2010 8:55 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2010 8:56 pm
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Posted on: March 31, 2010 2:29 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2010 3:07 pm
I am trying to talk myself into this Final Four, I really am. I look at the field and see the loveable underdog (Butler), the mighty unlikeable power (Duke), the coach looking to break through (West Virginia) and the consistent, “How Do They Do It?” performer (Michigan State). In theory that looks like a good bunch and would seem like a group I could rally behind. But I am just not feeling it and I must admit I am a bit depressed.
See this was to be the Tournament when the stars came out and we got to see the best of the best . The Midwest Region had Kansas and its pack of old school veterans and new school talent. I was certain they would win their second title in three years and we would all have to accept that Bill Self is more “NCAA Champion” than “loser to Bradley and Bucknell.” And if Kansas fell, it had to be Ohio State and Evan Turner, right? He is so good AND he wears braces, a combination that almost surely is deserving of a Final Four.
And then in the West, old Jimmy Boeheim was going to be there, that much was certain. Wesley Johnson was going to do his thing on a national stage and we were all going to be able to see the power of a perfectly executed zone. And if for some strange reason, the Orange fell, well then Kansas State and their manic coach would be there to entertain and potentially scare us. Throw in the fact they have a player with an Amish beard, and the excitement would have been at a fever pitch.
Then there was Kentucky. You KNEW Kentucky was going to be there . It was certain. John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, John Calipari….it was a murderer’s row of storylines. The Cats were the most talented team in America and had at least four future NBA Lottery picks on the roster. There is no way that team doesn’t make the Final Four and dazzle us with at least a few amazing fast breaks and gravity-defying dunks. There was no way that group could lose, could they?
Well they all lost, and some of them in brutal fashion. And now we are left with four teams, none of which is really good enough to be the National Champion. Yeah I said it. None of these teams are very good. In fact, if I were to have ranked the teams in terms of national championship worthiness going into the Tournament, only two of the teams in the Final Four would have even been in the Top 10, and West Virginia would have been highest at #5. Now one of them will join Arizona in 1997 and Florida in 2006 as the only champions of the 1990s that were not among the four best teams in the country (for the record, my four this year were Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Ohio State…in that order).
Look I love the scrappy underdog. And if Butler becomes the most unlikely champ in NCAA history, then I will cheer. But we know that will not happen. Instead, we will likely either see a flawed West Virginia team or a mediocre Duke bunch with a gift-wrapped path to the Final Four, cut down the nets. And that is fine I guess, but it doesn’t appeal to my sensibilities. I either want to see greatness rewarded, or true “out of nowhere” underdogs capture the nation and produce a champion to remember for eternity. None of these teams fit that bill.
So I guess I will root for Michigan State. Tom Izzo has 6 Final Fours in 12 years and that record is beyond impressive. And even though this bunch is one of the worst teams of the group, he is a great coach who deserves the second title that elevates him into the discussion as of the all-time best to roam the sidelines. While this particular group doesn’t really deserve the title, he does for his overall resume of work. So I will take Izzo and root for Sparty this weekend. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Posted on: March 30, 2010 5:32 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2010 5:33 pm
For the four remaining teams in the NCAA tournament, the Final Four weekend is a battle of skill, coaching, execution, heart, intensity, and determination for the grand prize of being named college basketball's top team. 61 teams have already fallen on this grueling journey. It is an opportunity of a lifetime and only the strongest will survive.
But for millions of people outside of the four remaining teams, the Final Four is one of the biggest gambling weekends of the year and even more is at stake. Jobs will be lost, marriages will end, family heirlooms will be pawned, and households and legs could be broken all over just a few bad gambling decisions. For some, it is a life changing opportunity and only the strong - well, lucky - will drive off in that new car, pay this month's rent, or put their children through community college.
Will you be one of the successful or one of the poor?
I can help you through your gambling decision process. And by help you, I mean do not take anything I say seriously. I will not be held responsible for your severed right index finger - bookies and cigar cutters are a dangerous duo. I will, however, suggest that you see a doctor about that. You're losing a lot of blood. On to the gambling...
ODDS TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Michigan State (+450)
West Virginia (+225)
BUTLER vs. MICHIGAN STATE, Saturday 6:07 PM
Line: Butler (-1.5)
Ken Pom Predicts: Butler 64-62
--- Gordon Hayward Total Points: O/U 21
--- Durrell Summers Points + Rebs: O/U 23.5
--- Butler drove six miles to Indy references: O/U 193.5
--- Ivan Brothers commercials: O/U 97
--- Where the hell is Mateen Cleaves?: Turkey (-120), France (-300), Detroit, owner of All Varsity Entertainment Records (+700)
"OBM" PREDICTION: Michigan State +1.5 - Never bet against Tom Izzo. Ever.
DUKE VS. WEST VIRGINIA, Saturday 8:47 PM
Line: Duke (-3)
Ken Pom Predicts: Duke 67-62
--- Da'Sean Butler Total Points: O/U 17.5
--- Jon Scheyer Points + Assists: O/U 22
--- Bob Huggins outfit: Sweatsuit (-800), Mock Turtleneck (-600), Fully Nude (+1500)
--- Mickie Krzyzewski TV sightings: O/U 11.5
--- Natty Lights consumed by Kevin Pittsnogle: O/U 24
--- Couches burned in Morgantown: O/U .5
"OBM" PREDICTION: West Virginia +3 - It's the year of the Huggy Bear.
Posted on: March 30, 2010 1:20 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2010 2:47 pm
And then there were four. Four teams from a field of sixty-four (sixty-five counting Winthrop), each having braved the bullets meant for them and emerged a contender for the national championship. Over the past two weeks we've grown to know and follow teams we may have, in some cases, had precious little exposure to before (I'm looking at you, Saint Mary's) or grown more respect toward (nice going, Cornell). But the four that matter now are the Final Four. It's their party from here on out, so let's get to know 'em.
"The Resourceful One"
Michigan State is that friend who saves one-fourth of a meatball sub to eat two hours from now. He's the one who can figure out how to get beer. He's the guy who always has a plan -- and he can get himself out of a squeeze simply by being practical. When things get tough, count on Michigan State to come through just by being smart -- like that time he figured out how to get front row Widespread Panic tickets the day before the show by calling his cousin whose friend was a college radio DJ who knew the band's promoter. He's good people to know and always cool under pressure.
Why Michigan State will win: They'll size up the situation, tweak accordingly, and find a way to get things done.
Why Michigan State won't win: By overthinking things, sometimes the big picture gets lost. Plus, there's that ruptured achilles tendon.
"The Pretty Boy"
Duke's got it all. He's cool. He's charming. He's got great parents. He's been raised well. And he's all the ladies can talk about. Everything seems to go well for him, especially when things look bleak. He's just that kind of guy. His perfectly coiffed hair and dashing good looks make him a favorite of many, though when things aren't going well for him he's quick to complain about it. Good thing, then, that things perpetually seem to go his way.
Why Duke will win: They're arguably the strongest team left, and they haven't even really had a scare yet. They're a tournament team and have a huge shot at the title.
Why Duke won't win: When the cops bust the party, Duke calls dad and then tells on everybody.
"The Quiet Type"
No one ever expects Butler to show up. He always says he's going to, but at the last second goes home instead. Everyone likes Butler, but no one really knows him all that well. He doesn't normally run with this kind of crowd, but fits in well. He keeps a low profile, but get him going and he's the life of the party. He's fun while he's there, but you never know how long he's going to stay, and he's never been to a party this big before. He's either going to flame out with the cool kids or make a lot of new friends.
Why Butler will win: As Butler stays modest and says very little, few realize how much they're capable of accomplishing.
Why Butler won't win: More experienced partiers could drink them under the table.
West Virginia told you it would be here, but you didn't think that slacker could get its act together and get motivated. Now you're eating your words, because West Virginia -- who you really only know in passing because he hangs out in auto shop class all day -- is showing up and he's ready to par-tay. He's a wildchild: funny, unpredictable and probably going to get into a fight before the night's over. Having him at the party makes everyone a little nervous, but he seems alright. For now.
Why West Virginia will win: Things seem to be aligned for them and they're stone cold rollin'.
Why West Virginia won't win: They could go nuts, flame out and lose it. They also won't stop requesting John Denver songs.
Posted on: March 19, 2010 2:57 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2010 3:02 pm
Morgan State came out hot and took advantage of a sluggish West Virginia team in today's first game - or what Bob Huggins calls a "Bloody Mary" game. The Golden Bears got out to a 10-0 lead over West Virginia, sending bracket watchers and the Big East into even more of a panic mode. Then, reality set in...
WVU's Kevin Jones scored nine straight points to bring the Mountaineers back to life. A Joe Mazulla three-point play finally gave the two-seeded West Virginia their first lead of the game with just over five minutes left to go in the half. The Mountaineers took a 38-27 lead into the break - courtesy of a 21-4 run - and never looked back. West Virginia went on to win in a blowout 77-50.
While Morgan State did a great job of shutting down Da'Sean Butler, his teammates Devin Ebanks and Jones carried the load. Ebanks scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to go with Kevin Jones' team-high 17 points. Da'Sean Butler scored 9 on 4-12 shooting.
For Morgan State, Reggie Holmes scored 12 points to lead the Golden Bears. Only one other player scored in double digits (Kevin Thompson, 11).
West Virginia advances to play the Clemson-Missouri winner.
Morgan State goes home with a story to tell. But before they do, let's look back at the 15 seed that had us at the edge of our seats for 15 minutes this afternoon...
MEAC Champions! Morgan State lost only one conference game in the regular season and won their second straight MEAC Conference tournament championship. The Golden Bears dominated the MEAC from start to finish. I don't care what P. Diddy said about Howard.
Morgan State is not a state. I've looked on nearly every map I can get my hands on. Rumor has it that the university is in Baltimore, Maryland. I don't get it.
Reggie Holmes is a chameleon. The MEAC Player of the Year did it all this season. He scored, dished, rebounded, and even transformed into an elderly woman during the MEAC conference tournament:
We were all Golden Bears on our lunch break. Yesterday, we were all Robert Morris fans. Today, we were Golden Bears. When Mo' State kicked off the second day of the NCAA tourney with a 10-0 lead over 2 seeded West Virginia, everyone was ready to act as if we had been fans our whole lives. It's natural.
Morgan State, we barely even knew you...