West Virginia Basketball: Huggins vs Calipari Part Two

Jeff WoollardCorrespondent IIMarch 17, 2011

Since the start of the 2004-05 NCAA men’s basketball season the West Virginia University Mountaineers have won 174 games and are 12-5 in NCAA tournament games.

During that same span WVU has advanced to one Final Four, one Elite Eight and two Sweet Sixteen games. The Mountaineers lost in the first round once in 2009.

In 2007, WVU was passed over for an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. Instead they went to the National Invitational Tournament and took the trophy as that tournament's champion.

For all of the warts that have been written about the WVU men’s basketball team this year, the one glaring attribute that has been widely overlooked is their abundant tournament experience.

The Mountaineers have been there and done that, with the exception of winning the whole enchilada.

West Virginia got past the Clemson Tigers in their first round game on Thursday, setting up a rematch with the Kentucky Wildcats in the second round—a Bob Huggins versus John Calipari rematch if you will.

Calipari was prophetic last week when he reportedly texted Huggins about meeting in the second round.

Absurd is the notion that WVU will get past Kentucky and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Suffice to say that Kentucky will be the prohibitive favorite.

Cue the sound of screeching breaks, not so fast my friends. WVU has a better chance of winning than most would give them credit for.

The reason, the one glaring weakness for the Wildcats is precisely what the Mountaineers have in abundance, tournament experience.

The Mountaineers are not what any basketball fan would call a polished team. Instead they are a savvy bunch that projects their coach’s personality and work ethic. Defense and hustle are the cornerstones of WVU basketball.

Not at all unlike their famous coach when he wore the WVU uniform.

The Big East Basketball Conference placed a record 11 teams in the NCAA tournament this year. That is the gauntlet that WVU traveled to get to the second-round game against Kentucky.

WVU’s strength of schedule and RPI numbers are very respectable to say the least.

Throw regular season records and mutual opponents out the window. Forget that Calipari will probably be pacing the sideline in an designer suit to Huggins’ track suit. None of that will matter.

It is West Virginia against Kentucky, Bob Huggins against John Calipari, and the Hatfields against the McCoys. This is a border war for bragging rights.

Most Kentucky fans would thumb their noses at WVU fans, until last year. The game that Kentucky has wanted since is now a reality. Do not be fooled for an instant that Kentucky fans do not remember.

When the guy in the Kentucky hat starts to chide you in your WVU hat about Kentucky’s historical dominance in college basketball, simply remind him that since that 2004-05 season it is WVU that has won more basketball games than Kentucky (173).

Then sit back and enjoy the game. Bragging rights are on the line.