"When we were coming home from Seton Hall, I'd have laughed like I am right now if you had talked about us as a seven seed," the coach chuckled.
The Mountaineers will square off with 10th-seeded Creighton, which got on a roll at the end of the season. The Blue Jays won their final eight games and swept to their conference championship.
"I've admired Dana Altman's team for so long," Beilein said. "It will be a real challenge playing them. I've looked at their stats, and they shoot the three a lot and shoot it better than us. They shoot it regularly like we did in the Big East Tournament."
Like the Mountaineers, Creighton built their team to be a bit different than many of its foes. The Blue Jays, along with several other mid-major teams, designed a bit of an unconventional offense based on the three-pointer, and that blueprint was one that Beilein found to his liking as well.
"When we first came to West Virginia, a little bit of my plan was to be different," Beilein said of his plan to rebuild WVU. "We looked at teams like Creighton, Butler, and Gonzaga that played teams in the NCAA and beat them, and I thought, ‘Why can't we do these things, recruit these types of kids and win in the Big East?'"
Beilein believes that last year's NIT appearance laid the groundwork for this season's NCAA run.
"Last year, we needed to go to the NIT just to learn how hard work pays off. We were one of the last teams in the NIT, because we had to play that opening round game, but we got there. It was the accomplishment of those two wins there that led to this season. The same thing happened last year that did this year when we had that down period. I think our kids realized down time happened last year too, but if we stick with it we still have a chance. The kids didn't quit."
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Beielin likes the fact that the Mountaineers are playing so close to home, for a couple of reasons.
"I think it's always good when you can bus. Getting out of Morgantown isn't always easy," the head coach said with a laugh recalling the travel adventures his team faced in getting to New York last week. "Sometimes you have to leave three hours before you flight to make sure you get there, and in this case in three hours we'll be close to our hotel."
Beilein was also happy for both Mike Gansey, who is from nearby North Olmsted, and for Mountaineer fans that will have a reasonable chance to get to the game if they can secure tickets. Only upper level MAC contributors can purchase the limited supply of tickets allocated to WVU. All other tickets are sold out.
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Beilein also singled out the fans who greeted the team when it arrived back at the Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
"When we got up on Sunday, I told our team it would be a special day, and for them to enjoy it," said Beilein. "There were about 500 people waiting for us, and it was a wonderful sight for our kids.
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Beilein noted that WVU will try to keep things as normal as possible for his team. Monday will be a tyical lifiting and film review day, with most of the work on Creighton taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"[Tuesday] the team will lift and watch film and do some light workouts," Beilein said of the schedule. "I need to watch some cutups of Syracuse and B.C. and find some problem areas where we need to adjust. "We'll do very little Creighton tomorrow, other than our scout team which might work on them a bit. It will be day to shore up our weaknesses, and probably the last lifting we will do."
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WVU will play in the final Thursday night game in Cleveland.