Before the Mountaineers could even get off the court Sunday night, college basketball analysts and Vegas odds makers were already talking about the probability of this being WVU’s last win of the season.
While most fans have come to embrace the “underdog” stigma that surrounds WVU sports there comes a time where this odium should no longer apply. That time is now.
WVU is 1-1 all time against the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. The last time these two saw each other was in the third round of the 2011 NCAA East Region where 4 seed Kentucky came away with a 71-63 victory over the 5 seed Mountaineers. The first meeting between WVU and Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, well that is where this gets interesting.
Kentucky came into the 2010 Elite Eight the clear favorite, not only to beat West Virginia but to win it all. That Wildcat team consisted of five players who would eventually be NBA draft picks including the preseason player of the year John Wall. The Mountaineers won that game 73-66.
While comparing that game to the upcoming rematch this Thursday is probably unfair; the lack of respect for WVU is identical. However, I will point out that Kentucky team ended the 2009-2010 season with 35 wins and only two losses, one of which coming at the hands of the Mountaineers.
WVU head coach Bob Huggins summed it up best last night with this quote regarding the Sweet 16 matchup against Kentucky, “I can’t tell you we are going to win, but I can tell you we aren’t going to be scared.”
This is exactly my point. This Mountaineer team has not been scared of anyone. This is the same Mountaineer team that went into Lawrence, Kansas late in the season without its two senior leaders and took the Jayhawks into overtime before ultimately falling short. This is also the same Mountaineer team that has gotten no respect in the NCAA Tournament after being perceived underdogs to both Buffalo and Maryland.
So while Mountaineer fans are fighting the perception that WVU has no chance, players like Devin Williams are taking the mindset instilled in the team by their head coach stating, “They put their drawers on the same way we do. So that’s pretty much it…”.
Senior guard Juwan Staten followed Williams remarks with, “Dev said it best, they put their drawers on the same way we put ours on. Like I said since we started we played the underdog role. They didn’t think we’d get past Buffalo. We got past Buffalo. They didn’t think we’d get past Maryland, we got past Maryland. I’m pretty sure nobody in the world thinks we’re going to get past Kentucky besides the 1.2 million that’s in West Virginia. So we’re going to keep doing what we do. And keep playing”.
Keep in mind Kentucky has not seen the WVU press yet this season, it is safe to say they’ve seen nothing like it. Preparing for the press is something that is almost impossible to simulate. Take the statements for Maryland senior guard/forward Dez Wells after the Terrapins committed a season high 23 turnovers, “Their press, it was good. They kept throwing a lot of bodies at us. And we turned the ball over more than we usually do”. Mind you Maryland was second in the Big 10 in turnover margin this season.
So while the analysts continue to doubt the Mountaineers both WVU players and fans alike know better. No respect, no problem.
The game is scheduled for a 10 PM EST tip on Thursday and will be televised on CBS. BGS will have a full scouting report on the game Wednesday.
Quotes courtesy BGS writer Kelsie Vanderwijst, WVU Athletic Communications and ASAP Sports