Know Your Foe

West Virginia won't know its opponent for its NCAA opener in Tampa until Tuesday night. Which team will be at a bigger disadvantage?

Looking at things from West Virginia's perspective, the problem of not knowing its opponent until as little as 37 hours before the game presents several challenges, but none that should be of major concern. While it's true that the Mountaineers will have to prepare an extra scouting report and an extra game plan, there's not much different in that timing than there is for any other two-round pairing in the NCAA tournament.

The biggest problem facing WVU will be its inability to focus its practices on a single foe. The Mountaineers may have to spend time going over the tendencies of both UAB and Clemson. While some players aren't concerned with that, head coach Bob Huggins does note that it is an issue.

"It does take a day of preparation away," he said after learning the Mountaineers will face a First Four opponent on Thursday. "We are not going to know who we play until the game is over with. We will have one assistant take one team, another take the other team and another assistant take who we would play in the second round."

Junior forward Kevin Jones agreed with that assessment.

"We have to prepare for two different teams. We have done it before," he said of previous NCAA tournaments. "They are two pretty good teams and you can't take anyone for granted. We just have to be prepared on our end and the rest will fall into place."

Huggins also pointed out that the teams waiting to learn their opponents should play in the Friday-Sunday subregionals, so as to allow for an extra day of prep time, not to mention make travel easier for the winners of the First Four games. However, that's not the way this year's tournament is set up. The winners of the Tuesday games play on Thursday, while the winners of the Wednesday games play on Friday.

One other factor working against West Virginia is that it will be playing an opponent that has a recent game under its belt. WVU will not have played in more than a week when it takes the court on Thursday afternoon, while the Blazers or Tigers will have a recent game's momentum to ride. WVU came up on the short end of that stick in last week's Big East tournament, when it lost to Marquette, which had played the day before.

Still, the hurdles facing West Virginia's eventual opponent look to be higher. The Clemson/UAB game doesn't tip until 9:00 p.m, meaning that the winner probably won't make it out of Dayton until at least 1:00 a.m. Even with a charter flight to Tampa, the winner won't be getting to their hotel until the early hours of Wednesday morning, leaving just a little more than 24 hours to rest and prepare for the Mountaineers at noon on Thursday. While the travel may be wearying, however, Cam Thoroughman points to another team that just fought through the fatigue factor.

"After watching UConn go through five games in five days, I think that whole, ‘You get tired after a couple games in a row' thing is [overplayed]," the plain-spoken senior observed. "It just shows that when you get momentum and get on a roll that good things are going to happen, and those tired legs are really not what everyone thought they were."

Those pluses and minuses might end up balancing each other out, at least in the view of another Mountaineer.

"To me, I don't think that there are any pros or cons. We all have to play against each other," Truck Bryant said. "We all have to compete. We have to bring our A game."

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