West Virginia: Mountaineers voice frustration over 2 seed

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West Virginia coach Bob Huggins did a little bit of lobbying for the Mountaineers to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament after they beat Georgetown Saturday night to wrap up the Big East tournament title.

And while he made a compelling case, deep down he knew the Mountaineers probably would be a No. 2 seed, and he was comfortable with that provided they were the top No. 2 seed in the field.

So it wasn't a shock to Huggins that West Virginia earned a No. 2 seed in the East Region -- the Mountaineers will play No. 15 seed Morgan State in a first round game at 12:15 p.m.Friday in Buffalo -- but it was a shock that they were the third No. 2 seed behind Kansas State (West) and Villanova (South).


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LOCAL OPENERS

PITT: vs. Oakland, approximately. 2:55 p.m. Friday, Milwaukee.

WEST VIRGINIA: vs. Morgan State, 12:15 p.m. Friday, Buffalo, N.Y.

ROBERT MORRIS: vs. Villanova, 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Providence, R.I.


"I thought statistically we were a No. 1 seed," Huggins said. "The disappointing thing is when they sit up there and say 'Let's look at a full body of work.' If you look at the full body of work, we were probably a No. 1, but I didn't think we'd be a one. I thought we'd be a two. To be the third two is what I don't understand."

While the significance of the seeding is probably a bit overstated, theoretically West Virginia's road to the Final Four is slightly tougher than that of Kansas State or Villanova because the Mountaineers likely will have to go through the second best No. 1 seed, Kentucky, to get there.

Forward Da'Sean Butler said he had a feeling West Virginia would be in Kentucky's region, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept, and it certainly gives the Mountaineers something to rally around.

"I set it up in my head as we deserved a No. 1 seed," said Butler, who was named the most outstanding performer at the Big East tournament. "We had done a lot to get it and we didn't. I know for me personally, I am going to keep that in the back of my mind and just play tough.

"I will have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. ... I feel that we were just as good as any of the No. 1 seeds up there and we should have it. But it didn't play out that way so we need to go out and take care of business."

Although the Mountaineers (27-6) must potentially go through Kentucky to get to the Final Four, they have a long way to go just to get to the Elite Eight and the potential matchup with the Wildcats.

Morgan State (27-9) won the MEAC regular season and tournament championships and have played some major conference teams, including Louisville, but the Bears probably aren't going to be able to deal with the athleticism and length of the Mountaineers.

After that, it gets much tougher as West Virginia will face the winner of No. 7 Clemson (21-10) and No. 10 Missouri (22-10) and each is a potentially bad matchup for the Mountaineers because both are high-pressure defensive teams.

West Virginia's Achilles' heel all season has been spotty and inconsistent guard play and it has, at times, struggled against pressure.

"You talk about matchups; in the second round we are going to have to handle the press," Huggins said. "Missouri is going to press us for 40 minutes and Clemson is going to press us for 40 minutes. We are going to have to handle pressure. With that being said, if we handle pressure we will be able to score. When you get that spread, you are going to be able to score and that helps us."

One thing that is clear about the Mountaineers, who won the Big East tournament for the first time, is that they are playing their best basketball of the season and it couldn't have happened at a better time.

That's especially true for Butler, who has transformed himself into one of the premier players in the country in the past two months.

Huggins said there is no secret to what has helped the Mountaineers be successful of late -- they played the kind of basketball that best suits their talent.

"I think we have done a better job in being who we are," Huggins said. "The last two games I think we shot 70 percent inside the line against Notre Dame, and I think at least 50 percent inside the line against Georgetown. We have the tendency to sometimes hunt the 3 too much, not that I don't want them to shoot it."


Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720


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