The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 30, 2010

Battle of defense

WVU needs another strong showing against Duke


If West Virginia could have picked the Final Four it wanted to play in as its first in more than half a century, this 2010 Final Four probably would be it for it is a Final Four in search of an identity and the Mountaineers seem as qualified as anyone else to put their stamp on it.

You think Final Four, you think star power in college basketball.

You think Magic and Larry Bird, Michael or Patrick Ewing. Think Bill Walton and Christian Laettner and the Fab Five and the Doctors of Dunk.

It is the showcase of college basketball, but as you look around today you see not Kansas but Butler and not North Carolina but West Virginia. Yes, Duke is a glamor team but the Blue Devils are here without a Johnny Dawkins or Laettner or Shane Battier or J.J. Reddick or Jason Williams.

Michigan State is on hand, too, but it as a banged up Michigan State team, one relying more on magic than Magic.

The truth is that the Mountaineers’ Da’Sean Butler, who Monday was named to second team  Associated Press’ All-America, is as close to a superstar as there is in this field, which is far more blue collar than blue blood.

If there is a trend at all it is toward defense, which is WVU’s specialty and which the Mountaineers’ semifinal opponent on at 8:47 p.m. Saturday, Duke, has had to adopt as its strength.

The Mountaineers Bob Huggins has admitted that his team has had to play defense and rebound because it just hasn’t shot very well all year.

Mike Krzyzewski, the veteran Duke coach, laughs when he hears that because he’s living the same nightmare.

“We’re two teams who have gotten this far without shooting it well,” he said. “We understand that to win we have to play every possession on defense and rebound. While we are different than West Virginia, the motivation is the same.”

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