"I remember watching them on TV," said Ruoff. " I was a big fan of the team. I didn't really know a lot of the players but I was a big Bearcat fan. (Cincinnati basketball) was a big deal. They were always on TV and I was always watching them in tournaments and stuff."
Ruoff even brought a piece of the Bearcats with him when he was working out for college basketball coaches.
"I had (Cincinnati) shorts," admitted Ruoff. "I like red and black. My senior year, I was working out for college coaches and I was wearing this Cincinnati shorts. They asked my coach ‘What's that all about?' and I didn't even realize what I was doing."
Now that Ruoff is a Mountaineer, he has gotten rid of his beloved shorts. He gave them to his brother. But those ties to UC probably still linger a bit, which makes tonight's game against the Bearcats a special one.
The senior is preparing to face his hometown school for what could be the final time on Thursday. After suffering a painful 62-39 loss at home against the Bearcats last year, Ruoff is looking to get one last victory against UC -- not only for himself but for Coach Huggins as well.
"We're going after the win for our season," said Ruoff. "We're going after the win for ourselves but also it would be great to get this one for Coach."
The night will be focused on Coach Huggins, at least initially, with a pregame video tribute to the former UC coach. Bearcat fans will get "Thanks Huggs" signs, although those are counterbalanced with a pro UC message on the opposite side. It will be interesting to see which side is displayed more prominently during the game. And although it's strange to have your opponents rooting for your coach, Ruoff is looking forward to seeing the tribute.
"I've never been a part of something like this," said Ruoff. "I'm kind of open minded going into it. I don't really know what to expect. I'm kind of anxious for it, anxious to see what happens."
As a sophomore, Ruoff had a then career-high 23 points against the Bearcats. Last year, Ruoff contributed just two points in the Mountaineers' loss.
"(Last year) effort wise wasn't there and if you do that in the Big East you're going to lose," said Ruoff.
Coach Huggins recognizes that the Mountaineers know what they need to go against the Bearcats.
"They will be fine. They understand what's at stake. We'll be fine," said Huggins. A win would keep the Mountaineers in their sixth place spot in the Big East and further solidfy their NCAA tournament placement.