Must-See TV

  • March 29, 2010 04:27 PM
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Posted by John Antonik on Monday, March 29, 2010
(4:27 pm)

West Virginia gets the coveted prime time spot against Duke in the second regional semifinal on Saturday night, despite Butler being a great Cinderella story, according to USA Today’s Michael McCarthy. When the Blue Devils defeated Baylor yesterday evening the decision to show the Duke-West Virginia game in the prime time spot was a no-brainer.

“It’s Duke,” said CBS executive vice president Mike Aresco, “and they’re playing a really good West Virginia team that upset Kentucky.”

Saturday’s appearance will be West Virginia’s 25th national television appearance this year, counting ESPN2 and ESPNU. The Mountaineers have made eight appearances on CBS this season.

Saturday’s Duke game will likely be the most viewed West Virginia basketball game since the UNLV game in Morgantown in 1983. If you recall, back then there were not as many options for viewers so the networks had a much greater share of the TV households.


According to last Tuesday's Indianapolis Star, the capacity for Lucas Oil Stadium for this year's Final Four will be 70,000. It is the biggest capacity ever for a basketball game in Indiana and it's the second biggest for a Final Four, behind Detroit's Ford Field last year.

Here are the five biggest crowds West Virginia has played in front of:

  • 29,077 vs. Syracuse, Jan. 22, 2005
  • 27,633 vs. Texas, March 23, 2006
  • 25,206 vs. Syracuse, Feb. 20, 2006
  • 22,843 vs. Syracuse, Feb. 14, 1998
  • 22,497 vs. Kentucky, March 27, 2010

    View this gallery at The Indianapolis Star: Final Four stadium set-up


    Da’Sean Butler will be playing his 40th career game against a nationally ranked opponent on Saturday when the Mountaineers face third-ranked Duke at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Butler has faced 11 nationally ranked teams this year.

    In 39 career games against ranked teams, Da’Sean is averaging 16.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

    By comparison, All-Americans Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley faced 11 nationally ranked teams during their WVU playing career; Wil Robinson played against nine ranked teams, Rod Thorn eight and Ron Williams just two.


    West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler was named AP second team All-America, it was announced earlier today. The last Mountaineer player to make one of the three AP All-America teams was guard Wil Robinson, who earned third team honors in 1972. Here are West Virginia’s AP All-Americans:

    First Team
    Mark Workman (1952)
    Hot Rod Hundley (1957)
    Jerry West (1959 and 1960)

    Second Team
    Rod Hundley (1956)
    Lloyd Sharrar (1958)
    Rod Thorn (1962)
    Da’Sean Butler (2010)

    Third Team
    Jerry West (1958)
    Wil Robinson (1972)

      Da'Sean Butler hoists the East Regional championship trophy over his head following last Saturday's 73-66 win over Kentucky at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
    All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo


    West Virginia’s 73-66 victory over second-ranked Kentucky was the school’s 70th against ranked teams. Coach Bob Huggins owns 14 wins over ranked teams during his three-year coaching tenure at WVU, including seven this season.


    Da’Sean Butler admitted after the Kentucky game that the first thing he thought about when John Flowers missed those two free throws with 51 seconds left was the Pitt game back on Feb. 12 when the Mountaineers blew a seven-point lead with a minute to go.

    “It was just a matter of how we defend,” said Butler. “In the Pitt game, when we missed those free throws, if we come down and defend we’re fine and that’s something that we didn’t do.”

    West Virginia did miss some free throws down the stretch against Kentucky but was able to defend well enough to win by seven.


    West Virginia snapped a two-year streak of the Big East tournament champion falling short of the Final Four in NCAA tournament play. Last year, Louisville was knocked out in regional finals by Michigan State and two years ago Pitt lost in the second round to the Spartans. Georgetown reached the Final Four in 2007 where they were eliminated by Ohio State in the national semifinals.


    One common trait between West Virginia’s 1959 run to the Final Four and this year’s run to the national semifinals is the Mountaineers’ usage of oddball defenses.

    Back in 1959, it was an unorthodox zone press Coach Fred Schaus took from Neal Baisi at West Virginia Tech that helped West Virginia to 14 come-from-behind victories that year, including a 95-92 win over St. Joseph’s in the second round of the NCAA tournament. In that game, Schaus put All-American Jerry West at center in the zone press and the Mountaineers erased an 18-point second-half deficit in a matter of just five minutes.

    Today, Coach Bob Huggins has successfully borrowed John Beilein’s 1-3-1 zone and it has been disruptive in NCAA tournament victories over Missouri, Washington and Kentucky. Against the Wildcats, Huggins stuck to the 1-3-1 more than usual, causing the Wildcats to go 4 of 32 from 3 for the game.

    What makes this 1-3-1 so unique is that the point guard is actually in the back near the basket.

    “J.D. Collins did it. Darris Nichols did it and so did all of the guards wherever (Beilein) was,” said Mazzulla. “You have to have a quarterback leadership mentality to get the other four guys where they need to be because they can’t see what is going on behind them. You have to have someone that can kind of communicate it to the rest of the team.”

    Mazzulla admits there are times when he wonders what he’s doing putting his body on 250-pound centers. Last Saturday, Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins gave Mazzulla a funny look when the two locked up in the paint.

    "He said, ‘Are you being serious now?’ And I said, ‘What?’ He just looked at me and I said, ‘Yeah I’m being serious,’” Mazzulla laughed.

    Once, Cousins was so surprised to find Mazzulla guarding him that he traveled trying to make a move to the basket.


    There are 11 players remaining from West Virginia’s 73-67 upset victory over Duke in the 2008 NCAA tournament. Duke players that appeared in that game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. include Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. West Virginia players who appeared in that game include Da’Sean Butler, Wellington Smith, John Flowers, Cam Thoroughman, Joe Mazzulla and Jonnie West.

    Singler and Thomas started for Duke in that game while Butler and Smith earned starts for the Mountaineers.


    According to West Virginia University Sports Information Director Bryan Messerly, his office has passed along more than 60 credential requests to the NCAA for this year’s Final Four.

    I made a call to Eddie Barrett, who handled publicity for West Virginia’s last trip to the Final Four in 1959, and he recalled seven making the trip to Louisville: three television stations, three newspapers and play-by-play man Jack Fleming. As a matter of fact, the 1959 championship game against Cal was not televised nationally.


    West Virginia University’s online store, ShopWVU.com, has experienced a 535 percent increase in total sales for March compared to last year, thanks to the Mountaineers’ trip to the Final Four. Folks looking to get their Mountaineer Final Four gear can do so by logging on to http://www.shopwvu.com. A percentage of each sale benefits the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.