Ready and Loose

How much these things matter is up for debate, but there is little doubting that West Virginia's players looked as carefree and loose as they ever have during Saturday's post-practice press conference.

All five of the squad's starters were at the dais to field questions from the press. But before, during and after each inquiry, they were quietly cracking inside jokes on each other, laughing at each other's answers and more.

That led one media member, who said he had sat through "tons" of similar press conferences over the years, to remark to head coach Bob Huggins that he had never seen a team "giggle on the podium so much" before asking if the players were always that easygoing. Huggins was quick to say his players knew when was time to ham it up and when was time to put in work.

"I want them to have fun and enjoy the experience," Huggins said. "In '92, [at Cincinnati] we went to the Final Four. I brought seven of them in [for a press conference]. They were hilarious. Everybody had the biggest time in the world. They were entertaining and engaging and funny -- everything that you can think about."

"And I want these guys to enjoy themselves. I want them to have a good time. They will be very quick to tell you now when it's time to do business, then we do business. But what's wrong with enjoying the experience and soaking it all up and having some fun? There isn't any doubt when it comes time to do business, they will do business. They understand that."

  • The media members who don't cover the Mountaineers regularly had to have set a record for the most times referring to the team's starting point guard (typically known as Truck) by his given name of Darryl Bryant.

    They can't be faulted. After all, the placard placed in front of Bryant's seat said "Darryl" and he is officially listed on the roster by that name.

    But that didn't stop Bryant's teammates from getting a good chuckle each of the five times a reporter asked a question of the point guard and called him "Darryl" in the process.

  • Considering his recent struggles, Bryant did field a surprisingly high number of questions. Nearly all of them involved the full-court pressure defense Missouri is known to employ, and how WVU will handle it.

    No less than nine questions directed to the players and six more directed to Huggins were focused on the No. 10-seeded Tigers' attack, which has become known as the "Fastest 40 Minutes In Basketball."

    When players dared imply they might be prepared to face that defense after spending extensive practice time on breaking full-court presses after struggling to do so in a game at Cleveland State, one reporter seemed miffed.

    In a question directed at Bryant (yes, he used the name "Darryl" to ask), one reporter said the point guard sounded "almost arrogant" in the way he had said he expected West Virginia to be able to calmly work its way through its opposition's defense.

    To his credit, Bryant just said it took a certain kind of confidence to be able to handle such pressure. He gave Missouri credit for being first in the country in terms of forcing turnovers.

    While reporters were obviously asking about other teams to get quotes for game preview stories, the way many questions were phrased made it seem as though the Tigers were the most imposing defensive team in college basketball since Nolan Richardson's old "40 Minutes of Hell" at Arkansas in the early-to-mid '90s.

    But Bryant continued to express confidence.

    "It's probably going to be difficult, but it won't be that difficult because we're going to play the way we want to play them," he said. "We won't let them alter our game. We're going to make it a half-court game instead of running and playing helter-skelter with them."

  • For the umpteenth time since drilling a pair of game-winning shots to win the Big East Conference Tournament, Da'Sean Butler was asked about his mentality when crunch time comes.

    Perhaps Butler is running out of different ways to ask similar questions, because he almost dismissed the reporter's question entirely before continuing.

    "Oh, child," he said, drawing laughs from both his teammates and several media members, after the question was finished.

    He eventually did put together an answer to fit the writer's feature story.

    "Honestly, I have no choice in the matter," said Butler. "I know it's coming, the ball is going to be coming to me. My team trusts me to take that big shot. It's something I practice and do every day, as far as just taking shots and just working at it. And when it comes to the end of the games, my teammates they trust me to make the play."

  • Almost predictably, it was left to West Virginia to defend the honor of the Big East, as many wanted to know if the struggles of other league teams in the NCAA Tournament meant that perhaps the Big 12 was the toughest conference in the country.

    Despite the fact that four of the eight Big East teams that made the Big Dance were bounced by the second round (and another, Villanova, headed home in the hours just after the Mountaineers' press conference was completed), the players and Huggins both said their league was the nation's strongest.

    "How many from the Big 12 got in?" Butler asked the reporter who posed the initial question. When informed the answer was "seven" he had a quick response.

    "One short," said the senior. "I still think we are the best conference by far. We have very good, select talent in our conference as players. Different teams that are probably ranked eighth in our conference at the time can probably finish top two in any other conference. That's how tough I think our league is. That's all I have to say about that."

    "We have had four [teams] in the top ten," said Huggins. "Other leagues don't do that. If other leagues did that, they would hail themselves as the greatest league of all time. We were in a down year, allegedly. A down year. It's brutal."


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