SYRACUSE, N.Y. —
West Virginia, your Country Roads lead to Indianapolis.
Playing almost as if they were in a time capsule, the Mountaineers reverted to some familiar March Madness basketball and upset a favored Kentucky team, 73-66, to advance to the Final Four for the first time since Jerry West led the 1959 team there.
For coach Bob Huggins it is a return to the Final Four for the first time since 1992.
The Mountaineers will play the winner of the Duke-Baylor game, but they don’t care if they have to play the Cleveland Cavaliers … they’re headed for the final showdown.
Moments after Devin Ebanks had tossed the ball skyward with the final buzzer still echoing through the Carrier Dome, seconds after the players had been given championship hats and jerseys and just before they would symbolically cut down the nets, Bob Huggins was given the microphone as his team held the East Regional championship trophy aloft.
“I’ve talked to this team about being special,” Huggins said. “Two more wins and they’ll be really special.”
That’s all it is, two more wins to a first national championship, a national championship Bob Huggins told his team he had returned to West Virginia to win.
Joe Mazzulla, who tormented Kentucky with driving layups and spectacular defense at the base of the 1-3-1 zone, made the title seem even closer when he noted they were but “80 minutes left to make it really special.”
There were so many stories in this game that it is almost impossible to focus in on one, but the overriding theme is that the more things change the more they stay the same.
Huggins arrived with a reputation for hard-nosed, man-to-man defense, for playing a strong, physical game. Against what he was replacing in John Beilein, it was almost a matter of brawn vs. brains. Both systems worked, but Huggins had his and Beilein had his and everyone in Morgantown enjoyed it, from Kevin Pittsnogle’s 3s to Mike Gansey’s dash to Joe Herber’s intelligence.