NCAA March Madness: Is Big East Champion West Virginia a Legit Contender?

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIMarch 14, 2010

NEW YORK - MARCH 13:  Da'Sean Butler #1 of the West Virginia Mountaineers cuts down the net after defeating the Georgetown Hoyas in the championship of the 2010 NCAA Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 13, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In one of the most exciting games of the conference tournament season, the West Virginia Mountaineers (27-6, 14-5) used their speed and athleticism to edge the Georgetown Hoyas 60-58 on Saturday.

The Big East is widely revered as the nation's cream of the crop in regards to college basketball. It wouldn't be a surprise to see this year's national champion emerge from the mega-conference—will it be the Mountaineers from Morgantown, W.Va.?

Bob Huggins' boys chased the Syracuse Orange for league supremacy in the regular season, and with the early exit in the Big East tourney of Jim Boeheim's club, questions about the legitimacy of Huggins' crew have been raised.

So just how good are these kids from West Virginia?

They're sensationally good.

After Da'Sean Butler's 20-point rampage against Greg Monroe and company, it's hard to say that he wasn't deserving of the conference's Player of the Year honors. Wes Johnson of Syracuse is a great player, but Butler is a unique specimen.

A talent on both ends of the court, West Virginia's 6'7" Jersey boy showed the nation he's worth his salt at one of the game's grandest venues—the legendary Madison Square Garden.

Spike Lee must have been in awe to see Newark's own work the way he did. It was unbelievable. Being a Brooklyn guy, Lee had no choice but to praise the kid from the Garden State.

Lee likely reverted to his old commercial shoots with the legend himself, Michael Jordan, and wondered in reference to Butler if it was the shoes (ya know, ya know, ya know?).

If you're 25 or older, you caught that one.

Don't overlook the rest of Huggins' squad. Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones (a forward who plays like a guard at times), and Wellington Smith are ultra-talents in their own rights.

When you have two uber-athletic forwards like Ebanks and Butler, and combine them with Jones' methodical play—you have a contender.

Smith, another product of New Jersey, is a physical 6'7" 245-pounder who isn't afraid of a little contact.

Let the strategizing begin.

It's not rocket science.

It's chess.

Huggins is the first coach to bring a Big East title to Morgantown. There's something in the air that says that the Mountaineers are just getting started.

What else is there left for them to prove?

In the regular season, the No. 6 Mountaineers beat all the Big East's upper echelon teams except Syracuse. The Morgantowners lost by a point to the Orange in a game that was decided by a free throw's margin in the first half.

It came down to the wire.

Granted, there were the quintessential nail-biters with Pitt, Cincinnati, and Louisville. Why, even the Big East semifinal with Notre Dame would make a guy's heart skip a beat.

The point is that the Mountaineers have continued to get the job done.

Game in, game out.

That's why they will hoist a banner boasting of their 2010 Big East triumph in the Coliseum—and that's why they cut down the nets in the Garden. 

If Huggins' team isn't on your list of contenders—grab a pen and a pad and scribble the words "Final Four -caliber team."

While you're at it, you might as well jot down "National Championship contender" as well.