Just when did West Virginia’s Final Four basketball season take direct aim in a national championship direction?
In this writer’s opinion, it came following the loss at Connecticut back on Feb. 22. Coach Bob Huggins, on his post-game radio show with Tony Caridi, began talking about what a national basketball championship would mean to the Mountaineers but also to the people of West Virginia.
Huggins, just when it appeared he was winding down his post-game comments, continued in a fireside chat manner with the Mountaineer sportscaster and MSN listeners about how nearly everyone in the state followed the Mountaineers and the reason he had returned to the Mountain State was to bring that NCAA title back to West Virginia.
Huggins talked and Caridi listened.
And the next day, sportscasters and sports writers all over the state were discussing Huggins’ comments.
And it didn’t take long before the players had picked up on them, because, quite obviously, he had mentioned these same factors to the young men in the Mountaineer locker room who had not been able to get the job done that night against UConn.
From then on, it seemed Da’Sean Butler and Wellington Smith were paraphrasing their coach, as well as Joe Mazzulla and others. The WVU players were making it clear that they were playing and winning for the fans all around the state, many of them who have never witnessed a Mountaineer game in person but have been following the Old Gold and Blue for years.
What Huggins was telling these players was true. The state has no professional teams to follow — the Mountaineers are the team of choice for West Virginians.
And do you know what? The Mountaineers bought into Huggins’ philosophy. As well they should have. West Virginia is the team of choice for most people in the Mountaineer State.