Business as Usual


By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
March 22, 2010

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When the West Virginia players came into the locker room following their 68-59 victory over Missouri Sunday to reach the NCAA tournament round of 16, there were no big celebrations or demonstrations.

 
  Kevin Jones shares a laugh with a teammate following West Virginia's 68-59 win over Missouri at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y., on Sunday
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo

It was just 15 guys calmly talking about what they had done and thinking about what’s next. That sounds a lot like their coach and what their coach learned from another coach – Al McGuire.

“I asked Al McGuire once, ‘When did you know that you were any good?’” said Bob Huggins. “He said, ‘When we could walk into any venue without fear.’ I have never forgotten that and that’s what I have tried to instill in the guys I had at Cincinnati, the guys I had at Kansas State and certainly the guys here.”

On Sunday at HSBC Arena it was all business for the Mountaineers, who had little trouble handling Missouri’s so-called Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.

“It was, ‘We came in and did what we were supposed to do and now let’s move on,’” said Huggins.

Assistant coaches were out in the hallway talking about Washington – West Virginia’s opponent in the Sweet 16 in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse on Thursday night. And then shortly after that, team video coordinator Josh Eilert was on his laptop preparing Washington cutups for the coaches to watch.

“He was up until the wee hours setting up Washington stuff so we had it when we came back,” Huggins said. “We all had tapes and everything kind of condensed for us when we arrived back in Morgantown last night.” By Monday afternoon, Huggins was able to talk authoritatively about the Huskies.

So what does he think?

“I think they’re really good. What have they won … 26 games? You can’t win 26 and not be good,” Huggins explained. “I’ve known Lorenzo (Romar) for a long time and he does a great job.

“They’re a great transition team. You can’t let them run up and down the floor,” Huggins added. “They have really shot the ball well the last five games. They’re shooting 41 percent or something like that from 3 the last five games.”

That said, Huggins said there will be no dramatic changes for his team on Thursday night.

“We’re just going to do what we do. We’ve got to guard and try and run good offense,” he explained.

Briefly:

  • Huggins was asked Monday afternoon his thoughts on the teams remaining in the Sweet 16 and the large number of so-called mid-majors still around.

    “I don’t pay any attention to that. We’ve got to get ready for Washington,” said Huggins. “I’ve known Lorenzo for a long time. Lorenzo was in Cincinnati for a good many years playing for Athletes in Action and, of course, was in St. Louis when we were both in Conference USA. I’m very familiar with Lorenzo and he’s very familiar with me. We’re good friends and he’s done a fantastic job at Washington.

    “What’s that’s really good for are those guys that no longer coach and they can sit there and talk about it on TV. What else would they talk about?”

  • Joe Mazzulla told the Dominion-Post’s Justin Jackson that he thought team chemistry has really been great the last three weeks during the team’s eight-game winning streak. Huggins thinks it’s more a matter of his players playing better defense.

    “I don’t think we ever had a chemistry problem. We didn’t guard the way we’ve needed to guard. I think in the last 3 ½ weeks we’ve gotten better and better defensively,” Huggins explained. “I think maybe guys understand their roles a little bit better now. Those guys always got along. They all hang out together.”

  • One reporter in Buffalo mentioned West Virginia’s care-free demeanor during press conferences, sometimes whispering in each others’ ears while questions were being asked or giggling before answering them. It was obvious that they were enjoying themselves.

    Huggins admits he fosters that type of attitude.

    “You only get to spend four years in college, or if you’re lucky, maybe five and it’s the best time of your life and you ought to enjoy it,” Huggins said. “You ought to be able to look on it with fond memories and you ought to be able to enjoy the experience. We certainly want them to do that. And they know the difference between having fun and when it’s time to go to work. They’ve been really good about coming in and going to work when it was time to go to work.”

    From that respect, Huggins’ longtime assistant coach Larry Harrison believes this year’s West Virginia team is very similar to the Cincinnati team in 1992 that reached the Final Four and the 1993 team that went to the Elite Eight.

    “Larry keeps saying the 1992 or 1993 team just because those guys enjoyed it. They had a big time. They enjoyed the experience,” Huggins said. “We don’t play anything like those teams played. Those teams were so much more up-tempo and we pressed all over the floor. We had a lot of really good players. But I think from the standpoint of knowing when to go to work and knowing when to kind of enjoy the experience, Larry has kind of compared them to that group.

    “Honestly, I don’t think about those things that much.”

  • One interesting point Huggins made about NCAA tournament prep is the short time players have between games getting ready for their next opponent. He said his team has had a lot of experience doing that this year with all of the Big Monday games the Mountaineers played with the same two-day prep routine.

  • Senior Da’Sean Butler is the unquestioned leader of this year’s team and his style of the floor is much different than some other recent team leaders, says Huggins.

    “In a lot of ways Da’Sean is a lot more forceful on the floor than what some of the other guys were,” Huggins explained. “Da’Sean really does a great job of leading our guys and he’s really taking it to heart about making sure that guys are where they’re supposed to be and making sure guys understand what’s going on on the floor.

    “That kind of goes back to knowing the difference between having fun and knowing when to do your job.”

  • If West Virginia can get past Washington on Thursday night, that would make a school record 30 wins in a season, eclipsing the 1959 team’s 51-year school record. Right now this year’s team shares the record with the ’59 team.

    Huggins said that’s not even on his radar screen right now.

    “I think when it’s done maybe we can sit back and reflect, or at least they can sit back and reflect,” he said.

  • The athletic department staff attended a Monday morning memorial service for Senior Associate Athletic Director Russ Sharp, who lost his two-year battle with prostate cancer last week. MSN play-by-play man Tony Caridi was asked to speak during the ceremony and he did a wonderful job.

  • The team will charter to Syracuse early Tuesday evening after practicing at the WVU Coliseum. West Virginia will have a press conference and workout at the Carrier Dome Wednesday afternoon.



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