Reversal of Status

West Virginia head man Bob Huggins will be coaching on the court of Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati for the first time since he resigned as UC's head basketball coach in 2005. However, this time Huggins will be coaching against his former team in an important game for his alma mater's seeding in both the Big East and NCAA tournaments.

"(This) is a two-game swing," said Huggins, who fashioned a Hall of Fame career at Cincinnati before moving on to Kansas State and then West Virginia. "When you look at Providence beating No. 1 Pitt, that's huge. I don't think anyone counted on that happening. We're all so bunched up tight there in the middle (of the Big East.) We have to go win. We have to go do our job."

Huggins had great success during his time at Cincinnati. He took the Bearcats to postseason play all 16 years of his career. After just two seasons, Huggins took the Bearcats to the Final Four before being defeated by Michigan by four points. Huggins' record at Cincinnati was an impressive 399-127.

For all that Huggins did in building the basketball program in Cincinnati, the university plans to honor him with a video montage before the game. Despite the extra attention being paid to him by the opposing team, Huggins is staying focused on the game.

"I would rather just go in there and play," Huggins admitted. "I didn't really know it was going on. They called me (Monday night) and asked me. It's just going to be a little video thing. It's not a big deal. They do a little video before the starting lineups every game anyway and they're just going to a video of a bunch of my old guys."

Although it may seem odd to have the opponent honoring your head coach, senior Alex Ruoff is happy to see Huggins get the recognition.

"It will be cool to see how their fans react," said Ruoff. "I'm sure he will get a big standing ovation. I'm happy to be a part of it. I'm excited for him. He definitely deserves it."

While he is brushing off his tribute, Huggins does admit that some emotion may emerge when he walks into the arena he called home for 16 years.

"A lot of my former guys are going to be there. It's a wall and you look up at it. Our guys are responsible for a lot of what's on that wall," Huggins admitted.

As Huggins has begun to build his own set of memories at West Virginia – he has one Sweet 16 banner flying in the rafters already -- his first game back at Cincinnati will certainly be one to remember no matter the outcome. That, however, is what he and his players will likely remember after thoughts of the brief pre-game ceremony fade. Cincinnati is playing for its tournament life, and almost certainly needs a win over WVU to stay in the NCAA bubble conversation. Providence, with its win over the Panthers, has closed ground where it was not expected to, and is now also in position to challenge WVU for a spot in the league standings. West Virginia can remove much of that pressure by nabbing a tough road win, but it certainly won't be easy. The Bearcats have shown the ability to play off emotion in their own arena, and certainly did that two years ago in downing WVU in overtime with Huggins in the building for senior day. Once the sentimentality fades, there's no doubt that a physical, intense struggle will likely be played out on the court between two teams fighting for positioning in the league and NCAA tournaments.


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