The West Virginia Mountaineers (28-8) are headed to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time under head coach Bob Huggins—all other WVU coaches combined to go there three times—and the word “sweet” definitely describes that feeling this time.
With a dominating 83-71 win over Notre Dame, the Mountaineers all but started what turned out to be a terrible tournament showing by the ACC, the national media’s darling conference.
What makes this week so “sweet” is that the Mountaineers are still alive and still have at least one game remaining. Only 15 other schools and fan bases can make that claim, plus the few teams left in the NIT.
Making the sweet 16 is a tremendous accomplishment but the feeling is that the Mountaineers need to go even further to consider this a great season. The season, as it stands now, is good but an elite 8 appearance would make it great. Anything past that would put it in the top three seasons of all-time in the school’s history.
People seem confident that Press Virginia is back, also. Notre Dame, who led the country in fewest turnovers per game, committed 14 of them against the Mountaineers relentless pressure, and although 14 does not seem like a huge number for WVU, it was for the Fighting Irish. In fact, it was the second most miscues they have had in a game this year.
Point guard Matt Ferrell was noticeably rattled and V.J. Beachem could not hit a shot to save his life (2-14 FG, 1-9 3-PT) as he rushed the majority of them trying to counter the WVU aggressiveness. Only Bonzie Colson and free throw shooting kept the Irish within striking distance but Jevon Carter and his teammates allowed nothing more than just a minor threat.
When Bob Huggins accepted the WVU job back in 2007 (which does not seem that long ago but at the same time seems like an eternity) he uttered what seemed like a coach speak phrase.
“I came back here for a reason.”
At the time, that could have been interpreted in many ways. It could have meant that he just wanted to be back in Morgantown, the place where he was born and where he went to college. It could have been because he wanted his family to experience the town that he spent so much of his life.
But now and over the last several years, it’s becoming pretty clear what Huggins was speaking about.
He came back to win a national championship.
Not only did he come back to win one but he truly believes that he can and that he will before it is all said and done at his alma mater.
The definition of believing is to accept something as true and to feel sure of the truth. Belief is not to be confused with false hope, which a lot of the time it so naturally is.
Huggins truly believes deep down in his West Virginia rooted heart that a national championship banner will soon be hanging from the Coliseum rafters. There are a couple final four banners hanging proudly up there already but coach Huggins is not satisfied with those. He wants more and so do the fans.
So, there is no better time than to accomplish that goal than now. The Mountaineers already have the first two obstacles out of the way. Why not go ahead and clear four more?
Huggins believes it will happen. And there is no better program leader than this legend of making that become a reality.
The Mountaineers face Gonzaga this Thursday night, March 23 at 7:39 PM. The contest will be televised on TBS.