The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 2, 2013

Huggs still entertains NCAA talk

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

BECKLEY — With West Virginia University standing at 9-11 overall and 2-5 in Big 12 play for the 2012-13 basketball season, asking head coach Bob Huggins about the NCAA Tournament heading into today’s Big 12 game at Texas Tech seems like a strange question.

A rant similar to Jim Mora’s famous, “Playoffs? Playoffs?” speech when he was asked about the postseason when his Indianapolis Colts fell to 4-6 with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in 2001 would seem to be in order.

But when Huggins, who has taken three different teams — Akron, Cincinnati and WVU — to the NCAA Tournament and has missed out on “The Big Dance” only once since the 1991-92 season, was asked about making the tournament for the sixth time in as many seasons with the Mountaineers on Friday, he didn’t necessarily scoff at the idea.

“We keep telling them we can still make a run,” said the veteran coach, whose team has lost five of its last six games. “We can still make a run and conceivably get ourselves on the bubble, anyway — or better.’’

With 11 games remaining, WVU would have to win out to reach the magical 20-win mark before the conference tournament. And the schedule the rest of the way includes road games at No. 18 Kansas State and at No. 2 Kansas — not to mention at Oklahoma, a team that’s already defeated WVU twice this season.

But Huggins’ WVU squad made the tournament with a 19-14 record last season, and he went with a 17-12 record in 2003 with Cincinnati. During his only season in the Big 12 prior to this one, though, Huggins’ Kansas State Wildcats finished 22-11 and had to settle for the NIT.

“I think everybody wants to believe they’ve got some hope,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a hard sell.”

Huggins, in fact, is so set on reaching the NCAA Tournament, he wouldn’t entertain questions about whether he’d accept a bid to the NIT or one of the other postseason tournaments if that was the only thing on the table.

“In all honesty, I don’t think anybody wants to talk about that yet,” he said. “They set out the season saying they want to play in the NCAA Tournament, and that’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

If the Mountaineers have any prayer of reaching that lofty goal, it has to start this afternoon at Texas Tech. WVU and the Red Raiders (9-9, 2-5 Big 12) are scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. tip from the United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas. The game will air locally on WOAY.

WVU will face a quick turnaround before hosting Texas in a Big Monday showdown at the WVU Coliseum Monday at 9 p.m.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.