The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

March 17, 2014

WVU draws Georgetown in NIT 

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia is heading back into post-season play, but going to the NIT isn’t where it wanted to be and the Mountaineers’ first-round matchup certainly isn’t where they wanted it to be.

The Mountaineers drew a No. 5 seed in the NIT and will play their opening game against a long-time rival from their Big East days, heading to Washington, D.C., to play the Georgetown Hoyas at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night at the McDonough Arena on campus not at the Verizon Center.

“We’re happy to be able to continue play in the post-season,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “Obviously, we are playing a team that we are familiar with and a team that is familiar with us from our Big East battles. We’ve had great games recently with Georgetown and in Washington, D.C. at the NCAA tournament. Mountaineer Nation has always turned out in great numbers in games there, and I know they will be there on Tuesday.”

Georgetown finished 17-14 this year and was upset by DePaul in the opening round of the Big East Tournament. The Hoyas, as usual, were very difficult to beat at home, winning 12-of-15 games on their home court.

Georgetown played WVU in their first Big East game, beating the Mountaineers, 70-68, in a Coliseum thriller in which Victor Page scored 30 points for the Hoyas. The two teams have played 51 times going back to 1922 and it’s as close as it can be, Georgetown having won 26 times, WVU 25.

The Mountaineers, unable to build on its upset of No. 8 Kansas in the final game of the regular season, fell short of becoming the eighth Big 12 team in the NCAA Tournament when Texas blew them out of the water, 66-49, in their first game of the Big 12 Tournament.

That left WVU with a 17-15 record and even a 9-9 record and a sixth-place finish in the nation’s toughest conference wasn’t enough to overcome it.

So the Mountaineers found themselves back in the NIT, trying to lay the groundwork for a return to glory next season, much as last year’s NIT champions, Baylor, did this season.

It’s a recipe the Mountaineers followed once before. Back in 2007 they rushed to the NIT title with exciting victories over Mississippi State in the semifinal and Clemson in the Madison Square Garden final. Something along that line can only help this team without any seniors to develop for a run toward the NCAA tournament next season.

“Every game that we get to play together and build some more chemistry is great for the future,” star point guard Juwan Staten said, not sounding at all like a player heading toward the NBA. “Knowing that we’re not going to make it to the (NCAA) tournament is tough, but we still have games ahead of us.”

Staten had let it be known following a strong performance against Kansas that he was planning on testing the NBA waters, but after a 1-for-11 shooting performance against Texas, where he was virtually taken out of the game before he actually left with an ankle injury, the NBA looked a long, long ways away.

As for the ankle injury, before leaving Kansas City, Staten indicated he would be ready for either an NCAA or NIT game.

“Whether we play in a few days or a week or whatever, it doesn’t matter. The next game we play, I’ll be playing,” he said.

Certainly, there is a letdown from not making it to the NCAA’s, but as it was in 2007, it is not expected that will have an effect on the players.

“If it’s not for a trophy, then we want to play for each other, for Coach Huggins, for team pride and for the people that have supported us all year,” junior center Kevin Noreen said. “We can end the year on a high note … and get this bad taste out of our mouth.”

The bad taste was built in part as the team limped home after a mid-season high, losing six of its last nine games and being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, 66-49, by a Texas team that overpowered the Mountaineers three times during the regular season.

All six of the losses were by 10 or more points.

But the road to the NIT was laid early in the season when they failed to pick up a significant win during non-conference play.

An early loss to Virginia Tech was a dreadful omen of what was to come, the Mountaineers failing to hold a double-digit lead against a team they should have beaten handily.

The Mountaineers had numerous chances to pull off meaningful victories but lost close battles with Gonzaga, Purdue and Wisconsin.

The four top seeds in the NIT this year are Minnesota, Florida State, St. John’s and SMU.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Smallwood puts future in jeopardy

    The last thing West Virginia’s struggling football program needed as twilight was setting on Bastille Day in Morgantown was to have one of its own whisked off to the North Central Regional Jail on a fugitive warrant from another state, especially a player who had figured to play a key role in the resurrection of a program gone bad.

    July 16, 2014

  • WVU player arrested in Delaware case

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood has been arrested by university police and is being held at North Central Regional Jail awaiting extradition on a felony warrant out of Delaware.

    July 15, 2014

  • WVU hoping to add two non-conference contests

    West Virginia is nearing the completion of deals to play football games against long-time rival Virginia Tech, now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Tennessee of the Southeastern Conference, according to a source close to the negotiations.
    An announcement is expected shortly.

    July 15, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads