Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The best story in college basketball

UConn and Duke will likely be the favorites when the NCAA basketball tournament kicks off in a little more than a month.

But it's unlikely there will be a more sentimental choice than West Virginia.

On Wednesday the governor of West Virginia called for the state's mines to halt operations until safety checks can be conducted on all. This after two more miners died in accidents, bringing the new year's total deaths in the state's mines to 16. It's already their worst year for mine fatalities in more than a decade.

Sports can't erase the pain of those who have lost their loved ones, but it can bring some positive presence to communities that need hope.

Nowhere needs it this year more than West Virginia, a state synonymous with coal production which is now developing a reputation for great college basketball. You might remember this team from a thrilling run in the tournament last year -- the double overtime upset of Wake Forest, the victory against Bob Knight and Texas Tech, then the heartbreaking overtime loss to Louisville, in which the Mountaineers ran out of gas and couldn't hang on to a 20-point lead.

This year West Virginia is ranked 11th and has already shown one of the greatest signs of tournament prowess -- the ability to win on the road. They have won at Oklahoma, Villanova and UCLA. They lead the nation's best conference, the Big East, at 7-0.

Last night, the Mountaineers improved to 16-4 overall with a one-point victory over Notre Dame. Following a three-game losing streak early in the season, West Virginia has won 14 of 15, the exception a loss to in-state rival Marshall last week.

The Mountaineers have the grit to match their state, led by the incomparable Kevin Pittsnogle, a native of Martinsburg, W.V., who might be the best outside shooting big man this side of Dirk Nowitzki. They have one of the nation's best starting fives and one of the most underrated coaches in John Beilein.

The Feb. 18 game with UConn in Morgantown will be the biggest regular-season game the school has played since the days of Jerry West.

There are dreams, and then there are dream scenarios that have a hope of coming true. We should all be rooting for this one.



Anonymous Mike B said...

Finally some college basketball talk. Any predictions for who makes it to the Final Four?

2:40 PM  
Blogger Dave Jackson said...


Right now I'd say UConn, West Virginia, Texas and Michigan State. Subject to change between now and mid-March.

Duke's lack of depth, which seems to be the case every year, concerns me in a one-and-done format. Villanova is vulnerable to a team with size and a ball-handler. Illinois seems too dependent on Dee Brown, though they are very good.

Gonzaga and Memphis have played good non-conference schedules but it will be interesting to see if their weaker conference schedules translate to trouble in the tournament.


3:03 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

For whatever reason I grew up with a negative bias towards WV. It didn't help that I went to school at Miami U in Ohio and was introduced to the WT students at Marshall U in West Virginia.

However, my bias started to change because you can't help but love good fundamental basketball played with passion. I would officially like to nominate myself for inclusion in the Mike Gansey fan club. Does anybody move without the ball as well as he does?

I believe the great story you're alluding to already started Jan 1st went the WV football team stormed into the Georgia Dome and rattled the Bulldogs 12 hours after learning of the missing miners.

As for Final Four picks ... right now I'm going with Nova, Duke, MSU, and UConn

3:03 PM  
Blogger Dave Jackson said...

Jason, you are correct about WVU's football success. Their senior class graduated with the most wins in school history and the team was honored last night during the basketball game.

I come from a Villanova family so it's hard to root for another Big East team, but WVU is difficult to dislike.


3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a WVU graduate I am happy you took the time to say nice things about the team. I remember being at the student rec center and the whole team would play with all us joe nobodies. Really nice guys, not flashy, and not selfish.


3:23 PM  
Anonymous Mike B said...

Dave, is it coincidence that you have Texas in your Final 4 now that you live there? I would have to disagree. My picks as of now would be, Uconn, Mich St, W. Virginia, and Duke. I think Uconn is the most athletic team in the country. Imagine if they still had Villanueva? Didn't they lose a guard as well this year to academic issues or something?
I could see Illinos making it instead of Mich St. At least 1 Big ten team should make the Final 4.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Dan McGowan said...

I have always looked at WVU as very classless. I didn't like how they acted at the UConn football game last year and I have always just thought of them as evil. LOL but thats me being very bias.

Anyway, WVU has actually become one of my favorite teams to watch because they shoot the ball so incredibly well. I do worry about their ability to rebound and I think UConn presents major problems for them.

As for final four predictions, I really like UConn and Duke obviously. Then I'd say Memphis and if I could pick a real sleeper, I'd say someone like UCLA or Tennessee.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll take WVU, Duke, UConn and Illinois.

Glad to see Johnny B get some respect. I'm a Richmond grad and he was such a great coach and a better guy.

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:29 AM  

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