NCAA Notebook

While on paper, both of Thursday's East regional semifinals feature matches between top-seeded teams and lower seeds who upset their way into the Sweet Sixteen, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said any talk of Cornell and Washington being pushovers (for Kentucky and the Mountaineers, respectively) is baseless.

"I don't pay attention to that stuff," said the third-year WVU head coach, during a conference call Monday afternoon. "What that's really good for is those guys that no longer coach, so they can sit and talk about it on TV. What else would they talk about?"

"I think [the Huskies] are really good. They've won, what, 26 games? You don't win 26 games unless you're really good. I've known [UW coach] Lorenzo [Romar] for a long time and he does a great job."

  • The background of that relationship comes from Huggins' time at Cincinnati. Romar was playing for Athletes in Action, a traveling basketball team associated with the evangelical Christian group of the same name.

    Eventually, Romar moved into coaching and rose up through the ranks before ending up at St. Louis, which was a Conference USA rival of Huggins' Bearcats.

    "So I'm very familiar with Lorenzo and he's very familiar with me," said Huggins. "We're good friends. He's done a good job -- a fantastic job -- at Washington."

  • By now, Huggins has often repeated a story about an experience last season in which he had an epiphany about the strength of the Big East Conference.

    It goes something like this -- after beating Georgetown at the Verizon Center last season, the notoriously tough-to-please coach was actually relatively happy for once as he got on the bus to head back to Morgantown.

    With a sandwich from the Jimmy John's chain of restaurants waiting on him, all he wanted to do on the ride home was kick back, watch the game his team had just won. But by the time he got to his seat, DVDs had already been piled there.

    He didn't have time to look back. His team had to get ready to play a highly-ranked Pittsburgh club just days later.

    Similarly, while the triumphs in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament were enjoyable for Huggins, he and his staff had to immediately get to work on scouting Washington. In fact, that process began even before the second round game with Missouri had tipped off.

    "[Assistant coaches] Eric [Martin] had the first [Morgan State] scout, Larry [Harrison] had Missouri and Billy [Hahn] had Clemson," said Huggins. "When Missouri won [over Clemson in the first round], we didn't need Billy to do Clemson anymore, so Billy immediately started on Washington."

    "We need to be able to get as much information to our guys as we possibly can in this period of time. [Video coordinator] Josh [Ellert] has done a great job with the film stuff. He was up til the wee hours getting enough Washington stuff so we had it when we came back. We all had tapes, and not just tapes, but we had everything kind of condensed for us when we arrived back in Morgantown last night."

    It all makes for some long work days for those involved behind the scenes, but that's just the nature of postseason basketball. Huggins said the team's regular season slate even helped prepare his team for the nature of tournament play.

    "I've done this so long, I guess I'm kind of used to it," he said of the quick turnarounds and the brutal schedules that come with them. "Probably having played so many Big Mondays [helped]. It's the same thing. You play Saturday and you turn around and play Monday. It's like playing in the NCAA Tournament."

  • As for what Huggins sees when he watches the film of Washington?

    "They're a great transition team," he said. "We can't let them run up and down the floor. They've really shot the ball well in their last five games and I think they're shooting 41 percent or something like that from [3-point range] in the last five games. We've just got to do what we do. We've got to guard and try to run good offense."

  • Much has been made about the difference in the atmosphere surrounding this, Huggins' second West Virginia team to make the Sweet Sixteen, and the one that advanced that far in his first season in Morgantown.

    Indeed, while that team was happy to make the regionals after knocking off a favored Duke team in the second round, this year's squad was all business in the locker room after its 68-59 win over Missouri.

    Perhaps that's just a by-product of the difference in expectations for a team that came in as a relatively unheralded lower seed in 2008, while the No. 2-seed Mountaineers have been the pick of some pundits to win a national championship.

    So you'll have to excuse players if they have yet to consider their place in school history, even as they go for a school-record 30th win of the season in the Sweet Sixteen. After all, they have higher ambitions.

    "I didn't do it and I had nothing to do with it, but they broke the huddle after every practice saying, ‘National champs,'" said Huggins. "I think when it's done, maybe we can sit back and reflect and they can sit back and reflect."

    "We came in, did what we were supposed to do. Now, we move on."

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