West Virginia earned an at-large bid as a number 7 seed in the West Region in Bob Huggin’s first year as head coach at his alma mater. As the 7-seed, WVU drew the Arizona Wildcats and defeated them 75-65. In the Round of 32, the Mountaineers drew the 2-seed Duke. Do you remember where you were that day?
After West Virginia forward Joe Alexander led the seventh-seeded Mountaineers to an upset of second-seeded Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament, he asked a pointed question.
When told that the Mountaineers had just beaten a team with eight McDonald’s All-Americans, Alexander seemed startled. He arched his eyebrows and asked in a serious tone, “Who?”
West Virginia advanced to the Sweet 16 but lost to Xavier as Joe Alexander missed a free throw with 14 seconds left that would have given the Mountaineers a 65-64 lead. The Mountaineers experienced their second worst shooting day from long range, making only 1 of 11 three point attempts.
This tournament run was the most fun Mountaineer fans have had in quite a while. The Mountaineers went on a tear as they entered the Big East tournament as the 3-seed and received a double-bye in the sixteen-team field (!!). The Mountaineers dispatched 11-seeded Cincinatti and 7-seed Notre Dame to advance to the Big East Championship. In the Championship Game, Da’Sean Butler had a game-winner to give West Virginia their only Big East Tournament Championship.
This tournament championship gave the Mountaineers an automatic bid into the tournament and boosted their resume, which earned them a 2-seed in the East region. The Mountaineers took on Morgan State in the opening round and Washington in the Round of 32 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second time under Bob Huggins. In the Sweet 16, the Mountaineers easily defeated Washington to take on the John Calipari-led Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight. You remember that team, the one with John Wall? The Mountaineers unleashed a devastating zone defense that held the Wildcats to 4-of-32 shooting from outside.
This win would give the Mountaineers their first Final Four appearance since 1959 when Jerry West led the Mountaineers to the National Title Game. This Final Four appearance did not go well for the Mountaineers, but it did give the nation a chance to see the true love Bob Huggins has for his players. Da’Sean Butler suffered a knee injury and Huggins crouched down and held Butler in his arms.
It would take 5 years before the Mountaineers would reach the Sweet Sixteen again. This time, after switching leagues and persona, the Mountaineers would take on Maryland in the Round of 32. In 2014, the Mountaineers switched to “Press Virginia” and began a full-court press that became one of the toughest 40 minutes opponents would face.
In the Round of 32, facing familiar foe Maryland, West Virginia forced 23 turnovers and saw McDonald’s All-American Melo Trimble injured halfway through the second half.
The 2014 Sweet Sixteen started with Daxter Miles feeling upbeat about his team’s chances against the behemouth that was the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats.
"Salute to them getting up to 36-0," he said about undefeated Kentucky, the team he'll face in Thursday night's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, "but tomorrow they're gonna be 36-1. They're gonna be 36-1."
Unfortunately, Kentucky unleashed one of the most dominating performances of the tournament. The Mountaineers never stood a chance at the Wildcats finished off the Mountaineers 78-39.
Here we are, on the heels of Bob Huggins fourth Sweet 16 appearance at West Virginia. Did you know that West Virginia has only been to the Sweet 16 seven times in its entire history and Bob Huggins owns four of those appearances? He is 1-2 as the head coach of WVU in the Sweet 16. His ability to change the persona of the team from athletic big men who rebounded and shot poorly to an even more athletic team fielded with guards and playing a honey-badger like full-court press defense is remarkable. He has seen the loss of his best guard in Juwan Staten and replaced him with Jevon Carter. He has seen the loss of his best center in Devin Williams and replaced him with Elijah Macon and more efficient outside shooters. The Mountaineers will unleash their fury at the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who claim they have felt pressure all year long.
Can WVU make Gonzaga blink? “We had pressure all year long,” Nigel Williams-Goss said. "We were undefeated, and we didn’t feel any of that.” https://t.co/zmkMSPEnup— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) March 21, 2017
yeah we actually just spout analogies at you all the way up the court https://t.co/71vzFJq8jR— Smoking Musket (@SmokingMusket) March 21, 2017
Come Thursday, we will see if Bob Huggins can improve his record to 2-2 in the Sweet 16 with WVU.