The One-And-Done State.
That is West Virginia’s new nickname.
“Almost Heaven” has gone to hell after the only two NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs in the state — West Virginia University and Marshall University — each lost the opening-round game in their respective conference tournaments.
First, the Thundering Herd suffered an inexplicable 72-68 loss to unheralded Rice on Wednesday in the Conference USA tournament. Then, on Thursday, the Mountaineers were defeated by Oklahoma State 72-69 in the Big 12 tournament.
Have WVU and Marshall ever pulled such an unceremonious departure before? Perhaps, but no one wants to remember it.
Nobody wants to think about what happened on Wednesday and Thursday, much less some negativity that occurred in the past.
We didn’t need this. Haven’t we suffered enough during the last year? If it weren’t the coronavirus and having to wear masks and social distancing and staying home and getting vaccinated, it was a snowstorm followed by an ice storm followed by a flood.
Enough is enough.
We are desperately in need of some positive news.
That’s why the last thing West Virginians needed was for WVU and Marshall to lose first-round tournament games, yet that’s precisely what happened. It’s as if Al Capp’s old iconic character “Joe Btfsplk” has taken up residence in West Virginia.
It started on Wednesday when Marshall simply didn’t show up to play basketball. As veteran Herd coach Danny D’Antoni succinctly said, “That wasn’t Marshall basketball.”
He was correct.
Nobody was penetrating and kicking the ball to the perimeter for 3-point shots. MU’s post defense disappeared. The Herd didn’t run the floor, creating fast-break opportunities. MU’s perimeter defense disappeared. The Herd played as individuals instead of as a team.
More or less, Marshall played like it hadn’t slept in a couple days.
“We thought we were ready,” said D’Antoni. “I thought we had a good practice [Tuesday]. We didn’t do the easy plays. We didn’t see it. We didn’t pass the ball the way it should have been passed, and we didn’t get energy into our pick-and-rolls and get people driving in and kicking back out for 3s. Instead we were standing around, throwing it around, then somebody launches one. That’s not the way we play.”
Instead, that’s the way to lose.
Meanwhile, the Mountaineers were finding a new way to lose a second consecutive game to Oklahoma State. After allowing 50 points in the paint during an 85-80 loss to the Cowboys the previous Saturday in Morgantown, this time WVU lost on the boards and the foul line. Oklahoma State outrebounded the Mountaineers 45-32 and sank 12 of 20 free throws compared to WVU’s 6 of 9. Both statistics were influenced by WVU’s 6-foot-10 Derek Culver being ill.
Yet at halftime it appeared WVU was going to run away with the game. Point guard Deuce McBride had a huge first half, scoring 16 points and making three steals while harassing Cowboys’ freshman sensation Cade Cunningham into five turnovers.
But Oklahoma State tightened its defense and refined its floor play in the second half.
WVU still had a very good chance of forcing the game into overtime. With the clock down to mere seconds, the ball was swung to the right wing, where long-range shooter Sean McNeil was spotted up. But, suddenly, an Oklahoma State defender flew at him, forcing McNeil to make a pump fake.
That’s when it happened.
Just to be safe, McNeil threw a second pump fake and then swished a 3-pointer that would have tied the score — except it was a split-second too late and the game was over.
Now West Virginia coach Bob Huggins still has 899 victories after missing two consecutive chances for No. 900.
That’s what happens to residents of the “One-And-Done State.”