WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

I don’t know what it means, if anything…

… but Ryan J. Boyd is here with the pep band.

Simon’s 70-footer

downs Cincinnati

By Staff Reports
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 12, 1996

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Way back when, Cincinnati and Arizona were two of the best teams in the country every single season. They played twice during those years and twice Lute Olsen’s Wildcats won, including a memorable 500th career victory the last time Huggins coached against tonight’s opponent.

A smashed chalkboard in the Cincinnati locker room testified to the bitterness of the loss.

Arizona’s interim Coach, Kevin O’Neill, said Wednesday he thinks WVU’s Bob Huggins is “probably the most underrated coach in America at any level.” True, they’ve been friends forever and coaches will sometimes engage in hyperbole when it’s their turn to take the stage — example: Huggins saying during his interview session that his team wasn’t very good.

The urge, though, is to agree with O’Neill, at least for this season. This in no way as easy as it was made to look with the nonchalance the Mountaineers exude when explaining their ascent to this point.

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Well, that settles it. Bo Ryan has spoken.

I happen to think Wisconsin’s head coach is one of the best in the country. That program shouldn’t be as good as it is, but every year it’s right there and without the wealth of NBA players you see elsewhere around that conference. Some say the Big 11 is down, but just maybe Wisconsin’s root canal style has something to do with it. A perception versus reality sort of thing. It can be hard to watch, but if one appreciates good half court offense and defense, the Badgers are pretty good.

Anyhow, Ryan called a time out from apparently coaching his son’s Little League team so that he might collect a paycheck from Sprint and then donate two cents to the WVU-Arizona matchup.

* Pardon his slight inaccuracies regarding WVU’s recent tournament history.  

O-ver-rate-ed?

The Oakland Tribune released the results to its annual Pac-10 writers poll last week and Arizona’s Chase Budinger was considered the Most Overrated Player.

WHO IS THE LEAGUE’S MOST OVERRATED PLAYER?

On Arizona’s Chase Budinger:“Seems to disappear a bit too often when games are on the line.”

“Lute Olson called Budinger the best freshman he’s ever had at Arizona. Those words have made it hard to figure Budinger’s brilliance one moment, sloppiness the next.”

“World-class athlete who doesn’t seem to have enough fire in him to be a dominant player.”

“Inconsistent, mediocre defender and rebounder for his size, too often shy away from taking the ball to the basket.”

“Scores a lot and has the big rep, but how many games has he won for the Cats? How many big shots has he made? He’s not a game-changer.”

This sounds familiar. Good thing Boeheim wasn’t around.  ( ” … is there a fine for that?” )

To be fair, Budinger has handled this pretty well.

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stewcover2.jpg

The WVU Alumni magazine has the New Martinsville Magician on its upcoming cover, but couldn’t decide which photo to use.

With his charismatic “down home” charm, Stewart may just be the most popular guy in West Virginia right now — and there was certainly no doubt who was going to grace the cover of WVU’s Spring Alumni Magazine. In fact, the editorial board was so split on which photo best illustrated Stewart’s affable personality, that half the run features him in a suit and tie with football in hand; the other in a monogrammed shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a huge smile.

“Both shots, taken by WVU Photographer Greg Ellis, are absolutely beautiful,” said Assistant Vice President for Creative Direction Dana Coester. “Individually, they stand on their own in terms of telling the story of Coach Stewart’s positive outlook on football and life . . . the family rapport he has with his team, coaches, and fans . . . his love and respect for this state and this University . . . and the leadership he brings to this position. Bottom line: He’s just a great man, and we’re leaving it up to our magazine readers and fans to tell us which cover photo you think best represents him.”

Vote for your favorite and you might receive an autographed copy. Unless you’re a high school student. That would be cheating.

I admit I don’t follow women’s basketball very much. Certainly not as much as I should have this season, and perhaps that’s for the best.

That said, I imagine the NCAA Tournament is structured similarly, if not the same, as is the men’s NCAA Tournament. I’m curious because WVU’s women’s team is ranked No. 17 and was appropriately seeded fifth in this year’s tournament. The reward for the greatest season in school history? A first-round game against the University of New Mexico, a team that’s won six straight games, including a conference tournament championship. 

No big deal, right? Well, that first-round game is in The Pitt. In Albuquerque, N.M. It’s the opponent’s home floor. Apparently, that’s the way the women’s tournament is.

“That’s the way the women’s tournament is, and it’s a shame,” Carey said. “(In 2004) we were a lower seed, so it didn’t bother me so much. Now, being the fifth seed and playing on the 12th seed’s home court, that’s a big disadvantage.”

You thought Arizona had it tough?

Consider the plight of Arizona, the program that has been in the NCAA Tournament 24 years in a row now, better than anyone else in the country, and was about as perilously perched on this season’s bubble as is imaginable. You don’t want to be a part of the team that snaps that streak.

Well, the hopeful Wildcats gathered and waited … and waited … and waited until their invitation was revealed in the West Region, the last of the four regions to be announced. Arizona is 4-8 in the past 12 games and of late shows two victories against Oregon State (6-24, 0-18 Pac-10, maybe the worst team in a major conference) and one against California (16-15, RPI No. 92) and Washington State (24-8, but 7-6 in final 13 games). The Wildcats also lost twice to fellow bubble dweller Arizona State. It was close, but the Wildcats are in. Again.

UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill, previously confident of his 19-14 team’s chances for a 24th straight NCAA tournament bid, couldn’t help keep his mind from racing.

The last “spots were left and I was like. ‘C’mon, now. We did play the best schedule.’ ” O’Neill said. “This was a little bit hair-raising for myself and my wife sitting at home watching.”

So by the time O’Neill and his wife, Roberta, raced down to McKale Center 30 minutes later, the Wildcats’ tournament streak alive with a No. 10 seed in the West region despite a precarious month on the bubble, the sense of relief was palpable.

“It beats the alternative of being the guy who was coaching when they didn’t continue the streak,” O’Neill said. “I’ll be honest with you: Those thoughts always run through your mind.”

This is worth mentioning because WVU, which was snubbed last season, then went to win the NIT and prove it really did belong, had to wait to the end, too. Despite confidence they were in, the Mountaineers had some tense moments.

“I was having a nightmare we weren’t going to get in that last bracket,” said guard Alex Ruoff, who admitted his sleep was interrupted Saturday night by such a thought. “It was almost just as tough as last year. We went to a meeting at 5 o’clock and I was feeling OK. We were definitely in. Then it got to the last bracket and I was like, ‘We’ve got to be in here.’ I saw Villanova was in and I knew we’d be in before Villanova, but I knew they beat us. I was still like, ‘We have to be in. Right? Please?’ I was looking for some closure there.”

…after this: It’s a hell of a draw for the Mountaineers. Actually, it’s a good for everyone playing in Washington, D.C. The bracketisn’t overwhelming. It’s the lightest workload for a seven-seed … or a 2, 3, 6, 11 and 14, I think. Still, there isn’t a matchup where WVU would be at a significant — read: Georgetown — disadvantage. Arizona, Duke, and probably Xavier or Purdue … unless Baylor or Georgia gets through … don’t really blow WVU away on paper. That must be a relief.

The Wildcats are a bit of an enigma. They have some nice numbers and a pretty good resume (note the number of $ and the lack of ? on the really difficult schedule). That said, they don’t play much defense, they don’t rebound and they don’t deal well with size, which is odd because they’re kind of big. They were probably one of the four or five teams to get in as an at-large team. They’ve had some injury problems — 16-6 when at full strength — and are pretty healthy now and, as evidenced by the schedule, they won’t be scared on the floor. Plus, it’s Arizona. Arizona recruits pros.

Their fans aren’t in love with the matchup, though.

“Send it in, Joe!”

Joe Alexander was walking to his locker room Wednesday afternoon when someone dressed in a suit who had been waiting for Alexander to pass by stopped him to have a word.

Guy in a Suit: Did you see the piece last week?
Alexander: I did, I did. It was great. Thanks.
Guy in a Suit: No problem. Hey, great game today. Good luck.
Alexander: Thanks. You too.

Alexander continued on his way and he confessed after a few long strides, “I have no clue who that was.”

Maybe Alexander is growing somewhat overwhelmed by his new fame and can no longer keep track of who’s who and who’s done what. Or maybe he simply couldn’t remember Guy in a Suit. I happen to think it’s the latter because in regard to the former, he really doesn’t care about his status or about involving himself so that he might change it. He plays his game, does the interviews, gets on the bus, heads back to the hotel and prepares for the next day. It’s pretty simple for a kid making everything look simple right now.

Along those lines, I’m pretty sure he still doesn’t know Bill Raftery, which is a shame because Raftery knows Alexander. [”Take it to the tin…with alacrity!”] Having Raftery attach a “Send it in, Joe!” to one of your dunks is quite an honor, yet one Alexander can’t properly enjoy.

A figurative and literal rising star in the Big East, Joe Alexander had never heard of Jerome Lane and was therefore completely unaware the former Pitt star shattered a backboard against Providence Jan. 25, 1988.

“All right,” he said when someone filled in the blanks in his mind. “That’s cool.”

Since WVU’s junior forward knew nothing of that game 20 years ago, it was safe to assume Bill Raftery and his celebrated call of “Send it in, Jerome!” were also foreign.

“Yep. Never heard of that, either,” Alexander said.

Alexander, of course, grew up in Asia and spent parts of eight years in Taiwan, Beijing and Hong Kong. When Lane broke the backboard and Raftery reacted in amazement, Alexander was a month past his first birthday.

“You guys learn all of that from TV,” Alexander said. “That’s part of American culture, but I didn’t grow up in America.”