Mindful Of The Past

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Amid all the preseason hype, West Virginia senior forward Da'Sean Butler made a statement the Mountaineers have lived by this season.

"We're still the team that lost in the first round," he said back in November. Butler was referring to the Mountaineers' 68-60 loss to Dayton in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament. But after earning a Big East Conference Tournament Championship and a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament, Butler has changed his mind when looking back to the loss to Dayton.

"I'm not even worried about that now. It happened so long ago," Butler said. "The only thing I can take away from that game now is to make sure it doesn't happen again."

That's what the two-seeded Mountaineers will try to do when they take on 15-seed Morgan State Friday at 12:15 p.m. in Buffalo, N.Y. And it's safe to say the Mountaineers still remember that feeling they had in the locker room following the loss to the Flyers.

"We still have a bad taste in our mouth," said WVU forward Kevin Jones. "We're going to come out with a whole different mindset this year."

In that first round loss, the Mountaineers relied on three true freshmen – forward Devin Ebanks, point guard Truck Bryant and Jones. Now all three are sophomores and have NCAA Tournament experience.

"We just can't take anything for granted this year," Jones said. "We have to play every game like it's our last, because it could be one game and you're out.

"We learned from our mistake last year, and hopefully it doesn't happen again."

In addition, the Mountaineers have Butler, forward Wellington Smith and point guard Joe Mazzulla among others, who were part of a run to the Sweet 16 in 2008.

For Smith and Butler, it will be their final NCAA Tournament.

"It's kind of scary," Smith said.

The senior forward was vocal following the Big East title win over Georgetown, shouting "six more wins." Smith said, while he will take it one game at a time in the NCAA Tournament, he knows to reach the team's goal it needs to win six games for the national title.

"Being a senior, you don't know what the next move is after that, so you want your season to last as long as you can," Smith said.

Jones said little has changed in terms of preparation between this year and last year, but there is an added amount of focus.

"We're going to go hard in practice like we always do," he said. "We know we're going up against a good Morgan State team and not take them for granted and go out and play our game."

Head coach Bob Huggins said following the Selection Sunday announcement he hopes his team doesn't have to endure another plane delay which caused his team to arrive later than expected in Minneapolis, Minn., last year prior to its game with Dayton.

"I just don't want the NCAA to send some bogus plane for us and sit in Clarksburg for 13 hours," Huggins said.

The Mountaineers' third-year head coach said the team has talked about last year's loss to Dayton, but he doesn't know if the game matters to how WVU plays this year.

"You like to think it does, but I don't know," he said.


  • While West Virginia is coming off a Big East Tournament championship, those games were all played at 9 p.m., or later, making Friday's game the first afternoon start since playing on the road at Villanova on March 6.

    In addition, the clocks were rolled forward one hour Sunday, which could be a factor for the Mountaineers.

    "You have to really be more mentally prepared," Jones said. "With a late start you can kind of rest up throughout the day, but not with a noon start time. You have to be ready to go."

    Huggins said he's not worried about the change in times because WVU has played so many noon games.

  • Smith said WVU has worked on its shooting much of this week in practice.

  • Butler compared Morgan State to South Florida as far as size. But, outside of size, the two teams are completely different.

    "They don't do anything that South Florida does, but they have a go-to shooter," Butler said. That go-to guy is guard Reggie Holmes, who is averaging 21.8 points per game this season.

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