Mini Stories

Longer than notebook items, shorter than standalone articles. Here are three mini-stories from the West Virginia perspective at the NCAA tournament.

Darris Nichols didn't know that he set an NCAA record until after he stepped off the court following WVU's 85-75 win over Arizona.

"Somebody just told me about it after the game," Nichols noted in the locker room following the contest. "I was worried that I was going to foul out today," he added with a laugh. "That would not have been good. I saw my career flash in front of me, and I thought, 'I don't want to go out like that.'"

Nichols, usually a fountain of good advice, didn't take some that was offered to him by Joe Mazzulla. The Rhode Island native advised Nichols not to get a second foul early in the half, but West Virginia's starting point guard couldn't avoid a whistle at the 13:10 mark. At that point, Nichols came on and did a solid job filling in for Nichols the rest of the way. And although he didn't know it, he managed to stay far away from trouble for the entire second half, in which he didn't pick up any more personals. He has now played in 139 games in his career without being disqualified.

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Joe Alexander is handling the media crush well. At least, in his own mind.

"I think I have done well - you have to have a lot of patience," he said after doing an open media session, private interviews with CBS Sports, then an open locker room period. "It's fun. Who wouldn't want to be answering questions about the NCAA tournament?

"The questions have been pretty routine," said Alexander, who has seen an exponential rise in coverage since his scoring explosion began in March. "The coolest part is seeing how the TV interviews get done. When you watch it on TV, you don't think about what all goes into it, but doing the interviews you get to see all the behind the scenes stuff. So, that's pretty cool."

By one count, Joe has answered approximately 4,382 questions about his upbringing in China, Taiwan and Singapore. But he has handled them all with grace and good humor.

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On game day, many coaches keep their teams sequestered and off their feet. They don't want any "distractions" taking the focus off the game. However, as he is in many other matters, WVU head coach Bob Huggins skews away from the norm in this regard.

"We had a walkthrough for about an hour and a half, and did a lot of sightseeing," Wellington Smith described. "We went to the Lincoln Memorial, and Joe Mazzulla and Jonnie West reenacted the scene from Wedding Crashers. We saw the Washington Monument, and it was fun."

While some might question Huggins schedule, it did serve to remove some of the pressure from his team, and keep them from thinking too much about the contest.

You walk around and you see that there's more than basektball," Smith said thoughfully. "It made feel a lot better and a lot calmer about the game. He likes taking our mind off the game. It's good that we can do that for a couple of hours."

WVU had a more conventional day on Friday.

"Today was more about West Virginia getting better," Smith said. "We watched film and practiced. We want to get early rest and be ready for tomorrow."

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