The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

March 14, 2010

West Virginia draws Morgan State in NCAA opener

Mountaineers second seed in East Region

MORGANTOWN — Bob Huggins has led West Virginia to its highest-ever seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Yet Huggins and the Mountaineers say their No. 2 seed in the East Region isn’t quite high enough.

Fresh off its first Big East championship, West Virginia (27-6) will play Morgan State (27-9) out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in a first-round game Friday in Buffalo, N.Y.

“I thought statistically we were a 1,” Huggins said Sunday. “The disappointing thing is that when they stand up there and say, ‘Let’s look at the full body of work,’ and if you look at the full body of work, we were probably a 1.”

West Virginia made its case for a No. 1 seed behind the heroics of senior forward DaSean Butler’s Big East tournament.

Butler’s 3-pointer as time expired gave the Mountaineers a 54-51 victory over Cincinnati and his runner in the lane with 4.2 second left was the difference in West Virginia’s 60-58 win over Georgetown in the title game.

“We deserve a 1-seed,” Butler said. “We’ve done a lot to get a 1-seed and we didn’t get it and it kind of sucks. Personally, I’m going to keep that in the back of my mind.”

Kansas earned the No. 1 overall seed followed by Kentucky, Duke and Syracuse.

The Orange lost to Georgetown in their quarterfinal game, 91-84, but still garnered the No. 1 nod over the Mountaineers.

West Virginia joins Ohio State, Kansas State and Villanova as No. 2 seeds.

Butler admitted his team has been playing with a chip on its shoulder all season long and not receiving a No. 1 seed is just more motivation.

“I personally feel that we are just as good as any 1-seed up there but they didn’t pick it that way and now it’s up to us to go out there and handle our business,” he said.

The Mountaineers have gone to the NCAA tournament in every season since Huggins arrived at his alma mater three years ago.

Huggins earned his 18th NCAA tournament berth in 28 seasons as a head coach, but has won no national championships and has made only one Final Four appearance, in 1992.

West Virginia’s highest previous seeding was No. 5 in 1982. Each of Huggins’ two previous West Virginia teams in the tournament was seeded sixth. The 2008 team lost to Xavier in overtime in the regional semifinals and last year’s squad had a first-round loss to Dayton.

The closest the Mountaineers have come to a title was in 1959 when a Jerry West-led team fell to California in the championship game.

West Virginia also has had a recent history of deep runs in the NCAA tournament.

The 1998 team ousted Huggins’ Cincinnati squad on a last-second shot in the second round, then lost to Utah in the third round. The 2005 team under John Beilein blew a 13-point halftime lead and fell to Louisville in overtime in the regional finals. The following year the Mountaineers lost to Texas on a last-second 3-pointer in the regional semifinals.

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