West Virginia has short ride to NCAAs
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One would think West Virginia would be excited about playing in Pittsburgh during its first set of NCAA Tournament games, but head coach Bob Huggins has a different view.
"What makes you think I am happy about it?" Huggins said. "You are not going to get the ticket requests that I am going to get."
That headache aside, West Virginia (19-13) will at least have the home-court advantage when it plays Gonzaga (25-6) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at Consol Energy Center. West Virginia is a No. 10 seed, and Gonzaga is the No. 7 seed.
The Mountaineers will have the shortest traveling distance — and Gonzaga the longest — of the eight teams playing in the Pittsburgh subregional this week.
"We need all the help we can get, so I hope it helps," Huggins said about playing in Pittsburgh. "Hopefully, (the fans) are on the phone now trying to get tickets because we are only going to get our allotment."
With a win over Gonzaga, West Virginia would face the winner of No. 2 Ohio State and No. 15 Loyola (Md.) on Saturday.
West Virginia has played in the two-year-old Consol Energy Center before, defeating Duquesne last season, 64-61. The Mountaineers, though, usually meet a hostile environment when playing in Pittsburgh.
"Usually it's a place that we dread to go and play, but this could be an advantage for us for once," senior forward Kevin Jones said. "We couldn't have picked a more ideal situation to be in."
Huggins and his players were confident they were in the 68-team NCAA tournament no matter what transpired in the Big East Tournament. Even after losing a second-round matchup against Connecticut, 71-67 in overtime, West Virginia was still comfortably seeded in the NCAA field.
"I knew we were a lock," senior guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant said. "I knew we'd be in. I just wanted to see where we'd be seeded and where we were playing at. That's a great location, right down the block, really."
West Virginia won't have momentum on its side. The Mountaineers have lost eight of their past 12 games, but their resume was boosted by winning the final two regular-season games.
"When all those (experts) have you as a No. 10 seed, you are probably a No. 10," Huggins said. "We were pretty much a consensus No. 10. No one really talked about us being on the bubble. They always had us as a lock. ... When you look at our numbers, they weren't even close to the bubble teams. More than half of our schedule was top 100 teams. We did what they asked us to do."
West Virginia was a No. 5 seed last season. The Mountaineers defeated Clemson in the second round, 84-76, but fell to fourth-seeded Kentucky in the third round, 71-63.
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