MORGANTOWN — The nice thing about this Big Monday turnaround for West Virginia is that Da’Sean Butler and Wellington Smith don’t have too long to think about it.
It is Senior Day and they are the seniors.
But this is something so much more than that, for West Virginia is pushing for national prominence, thinking it can land a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, fully aware of the trials and tribulations of such teams as Kentucky and Kansas and Villanova.
This is a year when nothing is certain, so if WVU can turn the final two regular season games into important victories, first at 7 p.m. tonight against a struggling Georgetown team that has dropped three of four, and then on the road in revenge game against Connecticut, that also has dropped three of four, anything seems possible.
Big Monday is not easy. You play Saturday, then instead of having two or three days to get ready for an opponent, you have only one and when it’s a team like Georgetown, that runs an offense you seldom see, it becomes tougher.
"Everybody wants to do it,'' Coach Bob Huggins said Saturday after West Virginia beat Cincinnati, to clinch a double bye in the Big East Tournament. "But then you do it and it's hard.''
It is a tricky, complicating situation, although it is quite similar to the way things are in the NCAA Tournament.
"You have to practice, but you can't to the point that they don't have any legs [against Georgetown],'' Huggins said.
In some ways, as pushed as the Mountaineers have been this year and with Da’Sean Butler struggling as badly as he has, backing off might not be the worst thing that can happen, especially with as much emotion as there will be Butler on this night.
Butler has been the emotional and the on-court leader of this team, the bridge to the past and to John Beilein who adopted the Huggins system so readily that it made it easy for everyone else to do over the past three years.
Butler’s first basket came against Mount St. Mary’s in what may seem like a long time ago to observers, but to Butler it has been a matter of time flying by.
“It seems like a year ago,” he said.
He is fighting against too much emotion, this kid who came out of Newark, N.J., to become the third leading scorer all time at WVU, to put together a 43-point game against Villanova, to help them to an NIT championship and to the NCAA Tournament in three of his four years.
“I haven’t really thought about it yet,” Butler said late Saturday. “It is what it is. I just want to win the game.”
He and Smith took different routes to this moment, Smith having had his struggles at times but coming on big time toward the end of his senior year.
He is actually going in the opposite direction as is Butler, his shot becoming better and better as Butler struggles.
While Smith made three of six shots against Cincinnati on Saturday and two of four from 3-point range, Butler was hitting 3 of 12 and 1 of 5.
Butler has hit just 9 of his past 34 shots, which is 26.4 percent, and only six of his last 33 3s, which is 18 percent, the slump beginning oddly enough after hitting 7 for 7 from 3-point range against St. John’s.
Smith, meanwhile, has averaged 10 points and five rebounds over his last 11 games.
Make no doubt that these two are going to be missed when they leave, being the most popular players out there.
“If they don’t cry, I might,” said guard Truck Bryant. “They’ve meant so much to us.”
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.