THE VIEWS from here:If ever the pressure was off a college basketball team, it is now for the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Let's face it, this band is fortunate to get into the NCAA tournament. In a year with less parity, it would not be in the field.But, hey, it's time for the Mountaineers to forget the parity and just party at the Big Dance. Time to cut loose on the court.
The thought from here all season is if WVU coach Bob Huggins could get this quirky team into the NCAA tournament, it would serve the program well for the next couple of seasons.If the (now) six freshmen could just get a taste of the event, it would whet their appetites and provide experience. That would help because next season the Mountaineers add more experience in La Salle transfer Aaric Murray, a center, and Dayton transfer Juwan Staten, a point guard. They add a shooter in incoming freshman Terry Henderson.Next season is when WVU's basketball program should start heating up again. This is gravy.WVU opened as a 1-point favorite against first-round opponent Gonzaga, according to Bovada Sportsbook. That tells you something about what a home court atmosphere means to teams and, yes, bookies. The Mountaineers, keep in mind, have lost eight of their last 12 games. The Zags are 25-6.
The bad news for WVU fans? The Mountaineers are 1-7 against the spread the last eight games in which they were favored.However Huggins got this WVU team to the NCAA tournament, he is to be commended. The Mountaineers had a very rough start and a rough ending to the regular season, but still made the grade.
It's amazing that, with 345 schools in 32 Division I basketball conferences, West Virginia has now made the Big Dance five straight seasons under the coach.Think it isn't an accomplishment? Consider that successful ex-Mountaineer and current Michigan coach John Beilein's longest streak in Morgantown was two straight appearances. In 24 seasons, ex-WVU coach Gale Catlett's longest streak was three from 1982-84.One has to go all the way back to when Fred Schaus took the Mountaineers to six straight in 1955-60 to see Huggins' feat equaled. And, yes, Schaus had the help of a player named Jerry West.The question surfaces often of late: Is Kevin Jones one of WVU's best college basketball players of all-time?
The answer is yes. Absolutely. In the same vein as Greg Jones, Lowes Moore, Joe Alexander, Da'Sean Butler, Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey, in my opinion. One has to consider that, as storied as the Mountaineer program is, there simply haven't been many individual stars.
Of the Mountaineers to move into the NBA, only one is certainly recognizable to current potential recruits: West. Perhaps you can add Devin Ebanks, now fourth on the Los Angeles Lakers depth chart at small forward behind Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes and Luke Walton.Consider, though, West was in The League from 1961-74. Rod Thorn and Ron "Fritz" Williams played for seven years. After that? Not much. Hot Rod Hundley played from 1958-63, Schaus from 1950-54.So, again, yes. Jones is certainly one of WVU's best ever.Earlier, I mentioned Henderson, a Huggins recruit for next season. Figured it was time for an update, so I called the guard's coach, Ken Adrian.
Adrian said Henderson's team, Neuse Baptist in Raleigh, N.C., completed its season and finished third in the Division I national Christian tournament at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa. The team also won its third straight North Carolina Christian Schools Association title.Henderson averaged 21.5 points and became his school's all-time leading scorer with over 3,300 career points. He was a first-team all-tournament selection at the national event. Adrian said Huggins attended his team's consolation game.
And finally . . .
There's a smell wafting from Institute and it doesn't have anything to do with chemical plants.Meg Withrow, one of the Kanawha Valley's most beloved girls basketball stars ever, quit as assistant coach to Renee Bostic. Then four players - Sissy Wagner, Asia Greenleaf, Chelsey Davis and Channell Mackey - quit as well.Word is, there are very good reasons Withrow quit. Word is, athletic director Sean Loyd and compliance director Sean McAndrews did nothing to stem the situation.And word is the stench just might get worse.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.