Column - WVU gets great draw in tournament
Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Updated: Monday, March 12, 2012 02:03
Imagine for a second that you're Ohio State basketball head coach Thad Matta.
Your Buckeye team is fresh off an appearance in the Big Ten Conference championship game, and you're in line for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament after winning 27 games this season.
One would think that after such a successful season, they could be the ones rewarded with a favorable draw for the first few rounds of the tournament.
But, instead they were rewarded with a potential third-round matchup against West Virginia in Pittsburgh.
That's a pretty tough draw.
The Mountaineers aren't playing their best basketball right now. They've lost eight of their last 12 games and are coming off a disappointing loss in the second round of the Big East Conference tournament.
But, if there's one thing that has been definite this season about West Virginia, it's that it has played much better when it has a chance to play in front of its own fans.
And WVU will get to do just that in Pittsburgh.
"That's great for us. I'm sure a lot of our fans will be there," said senior guard Truck Bryant. "It's important to have your fan base there in a situation like this."
The Mountaineers will also have the benefit of not having to travel nearly as much as their opponents will have to. Just a 74-mile drive separates the Mountaineers from the Consol Energy Center, which is great for any team in a tournament setting such as this.
But when you look at WVU's first opponent, Gonzaga, and the 2,500-mile trip it has to make to Pittsburgh, things start to look even better for the Mountaineers.
In a situation where every team is looking for any kind of advantage to capitalize on, West Virginia got put in good shape thanks in part to where they get to play these first couple games.
It will get a Gonzaga team that traveled across the country to get to Pittsburgh, and then the Mountaineers will basically get a home game against an Ohio State team that can definitely be beaten.
According to the seeds, West Virginia will go into both of those games thought of as underdogs, but with what will for the most part be a home crowd behind them, things could look up for the Mountaineers.
And remember, even against a No. 1 or 2 seed, anything can happen in March.
"We need all the help we can get," said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. "Hopefully (the fans) are on the phone now trying to get tickets because we are only going to get our allotment. Hopefully, they find ways to get there.
"The advantage of being a one or two seed is having an easier first game ... You are going to get someone that is pretty good (in the second game)."