The College Basketball Notebook

April 1, 2010 2:00 PM

The Road To Indy: West Virginia

West Virginia has been highly regarded and a consistent winner all year long, in the mold of their coach, Bob Huggins. But it’s only been in the last several weeks that they’ve taken on the look of the Final Four team the nation now sees.

The Mountaineers rolled through a mostly non-descript December schedule. They began Big East play after Christmas with two narrow wins over Seton Hall and Marquette—nothing to sneeze at, but nothing that shouted “Indianapolis” either. Then they were beaten decisively by Purdue on New Year’s Day. Now this was the Boilermaker team that still had Robbie Hummel, and it was in West Lafayette, but it still fit the “good but not great script.”

That pattern continued through wins over Louisville and Pitt, then a loss on a return trip to Pitt. The season hit its low point with an 11-point loss at UConn. From that point forward, the Mountaineers have not lost since. This included a win at Villanova in the regular season finale, a game that proved to be two ships passing in the night.

New York City provided thrills, as WVA won the conference tournament, getting wins over Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown by a combined total of seven points. That led them to a relatively uneventful run through the first three games of the East Regional, followed up by their holding off Kentucky to make it to Indianapolis.

Huggins puts a four-forward attack on the floor, a size-oriented approach that’s rare in an age when most teams are built around the backcourt. They all score and rebound. De’Sean Butler is the leading man, with Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks close behind. Wellington Smith is the fourth wheel. The key to their success, as readers know I’ve been bringing up all year, is the backcourt. Do they get enough efficiency from the point guard to enable a smooth-running offense? When Daryl Bryant went down with a broken foot prior to last week’s regionals, it looked like a fatal blow. But backup Joe Mazzula stepped up and played the game of his life against Kentucky. Just as Butler played the games of his life in the run through New York City. They’ll need them all to do it again on Saturday & Monday to cut down the nets one last time.

Tomorrow our run continues with a look at Duke. And The Baseball Notebook has a preview of the AL East up today.

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