The Friars, in a pair of losses to WVU during the regular season, failed to shoot the ball as effectively or timely as they had versus the majority of other foes. PC converted just 36.7 percent from the field, 36.4 from behind the arc, in an 80-53 loss Feb. 23 at the Coliseum. It was nearly on the season means of 45 and 37.6 percents, respectively, in a 77-65 setback in the initial meeting, but failed to make crucial shots in surrendering a 12-point lead that eventually ballooned to a 16-point deficit.
Huggins is again hoping to limit good guard looks; Providence stayed in the first game via its shooting even when one factors better balance inside from Randall Hanke and Geoff McDermott. The Mountaineers increasingly pressured in the latter meeting, forcing 21 turnovers for 27 points against 12 for 14 in the opening game. Too, Providence made just four threes in the last game while hitting seven in the first – two numbers on opposite sides of the six-per-game tagline considered a key by Huggins.
"We've been very fortunate," Huggins said. "They have not shot the ball as well on the perimeter against us as they have against other teams. They have a lot of weapons on the perimeter, and we have to do a good job of that again."
Providence (15-15, 6-12 Big East) got into the tournament as the 12th and final seed over DePaul. The teams split the regular season meetings and each lost their last game to finish with identical league records; the Friars won a second-level tiebreaker because of its 2-0 mark against fourth-seeded Connecticut after the squads were tied, or theoretically could be with an equal number of games played, when matched against the top three Big East teams. West Virginia (22-9, 11-7) is seeded fifth after winning its last two conference games to slide up a spot when Marquette lost to Syracuse on Saturday. The contest will be the third in four years between the schools to open conference postseason play. WVU has won both previous games and will attempt to again beat Providence for the third time in a single season (2005).
"I'd much rather go in having won two than lost two," Huggins said. "(PC head coach Tim Welsh) has done a good job getting them back. But I'd rather have won two than lost two. We have not shot it as consistently as what we'd like to. And Darris (Nichols) playing on a bad ankle didn't help us. Hopefully he will be back to full strength."
Nichols, limited by an ankle sprain, played 22 minutes in the overtime win at St. John's. That has healed somewhat, and the senior might try to practice later today after the Mountaineers took Sunday off. The team departs Tuesday for New York; game-time is slated for 2 p.m. on Wednesday, but will likely be 2:30 p.m. or later.
"I think there are more good teams in the Big East; it is scary to try to win four games against who we have to," Huggins said. "I have kinda always lived in the moment. I love New York. Who doesn't love New York? I think when you see all the people in gold show up you will see we love New York. I look forward to it."
Note: West Virginia junior Joe Alexander has been named a first-team All-Big East selection. The forward has scored 32, 32 and 29 points, respectively, in the last three games against Connecticut, Pitt and St. John's. Alexander was the lone Mountaineer named to either the first, second and honorable mention teams or the All-Rookie squad. The rest of the first team: Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati, So., 6-1, 195, Indianapolis, Ind.; Jeff Adrien, Connecticut, Jr., 6-7, 243, Brookline, Mass.; A.J. Price, Connecticut, Jr., 6-2, 187, Amityville, N.Y.; Roy Hibbert, Georgetown, Sr., 7-2, 278, Adelphi, Md.; David Padgett, Louisville, Sr., 6-11, 245, Reno, Nev.; Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, So., 6-8, 251, Schererville, Ind.; Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame, Jr., 6-0, 196, Staten Island, N.Y.; Sam Young, Pittsburgh, Jr., 6-6, 215, Clinton, Md.; Brian Laing, Seton Hall, Sr., 6-5, 215, Bronx, N.Y.; Kentrell Gransberry, USF, Sr., 6-9, 270, Baton Rouge, La.
"Joe has really come on," Huggins said. "He has made so much progress in his understanding of how to play. He had tunnel vision before, deciding what he was gong to do before catching the ball at times. (He is now) reacting to how the defense is playing. He has certainly become one of the better players in a great league."