NCAA Experience

While no one on West Virginia's basketball team has been to an NCAA tournament, head basketball coach John Beilein has put on his dancing shoes before.

At both Canisius and Richmond, Beilein guided teams into the field of 64. His experiences with those two teams were different from each other, but one bears some striking similarities to WVU's 2004-05 squad, which is bound for a first round date with Creighton in Cleveland.

"My Canisius team was very similar in that we hadn't gone in a while, and we lost our best player in practice the day before the tournament with a broken thumb," Beilein recalled. "We had lost him with a knee injury earlier, then got him back but lost him again for the tournament. "That was much like what we went through with Tyrone. We got on a roll and won the tournament anyway.

"Richmond was different, though. We were a three seed going in to our conference tournament, and we didn't have any adversity. We did have a last-second shot go in in the semis to put us in the championship game.

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West Virginia will likely get game tapes from Creighton oppoinents such as Kent State and Ohio State, but the Mountaineers are already well-stocked with footage of the Bluejays. The Mountaineer support staff routinely tapes games available over satellite, so West Virginia already had a selection of Creighton tapes to begin dissecting and studying.

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After WVU's loss to Seton Hall following a week off, one thought held that the Mountaineers' extended period of inactivity worked against them. Beilein, however, looked at both sides of that equation.

"There are a couple of schools of thought on the turnaround," he observed. "Teams from other conferences have been done for a while, so they might have more rest, but you don't want to lose your rhythm, either. But when you have from Sunday through Wednesday, you hope you can get your legs back in that amount of time. It will be difficult, but it won't be an excuse for us.

West Virginia's last game was Saturday night, giving the Mountaineers four full days between games, while Creighton last played on March 7, giving the Bluejays a 10 day break between games.

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Beilein's schedule has never been more hectic than it has been over the past week.

"I've probably never had anything busier than the last six days," he said of the whirlwind trip through the conference tournament. "In other tournaments we've had to win three games, and have played on a Wednesday, Saturday, Monday schedule, then played on Wednesday. This one is special because it was in New York City, though."

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Beilein, who studiously avoided NCAA talk during the season, finally broke down on Tuesday.

"I will talk to them about it now," he admitted. "I want them to enjoy the day and relish it. We'll talk about the tournament a lot on Tuesday. It's the most wonderful feeling in the world to know that you are playing in the postseason."

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Beilein also noted that the Big East, which tied for the highest number of teams in the tournament, agains showed it is one of the toughest conferences in the country.

"Half of the Big East teams got in, and that shows you you have to enjoy these days," he said. "If anyone told me we'd be a seven [seed] and Notre Dame wouldn't be in after they beat us at home, well, it just shows you how difficult this league is."

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