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Cagers Get Early High Rank


April 21, 2008
By Mickey Furfari
MORGANTOWN — Andy Katz of recently posted a pre-preseason Top 25 for NCAA Division I-A basketball in 2008-09.

Somewhat surprisingly to many, he had West Virginia University in the No. 6 spot. It finished No. 17 in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll for this past season.

So I decided to pop the question to Bob Huggins, who just completed his first year as the Mountaineers’ head coach.

“What’s your response to such a high ranking?” I asked.

“Well, my response to that is that he must know more than I do,” Huggins replied. “I don’t pay any attention to who has what coming back.

“And I think if you’re going to go through and rank people, you need to know something about everybody and I don’t.”

He went on to explain that he doesn’t know much about the SEC or the Pac-10, for example. He simply isn’t aware who’s returning at their schools and who’s leaving. Neither does he know who’s supposed to be good next season.

In case you’re interested, here’s why Katz picked West Virginia sixth:

“Just look at what happened in the NCAAs. Coach Bob Huggins did a masterful job of blending the John Beilein offensive strategies of back cuts and 3s with his much more demanding defense and rebounding.

“The big question, of course, is whether or not junior Joe Alexander takes the bait and leaves for the NBA draft. Key contributors Alex Ruoff, Da’Sean Butler and backup point guard Joe Mazzulla, who was sensational in the upset of Duke, return.”

As to why he probably shouldn’t rate WVU that high, Katz wrote, “If Alexander is gone, then the Mountaineers can’t be in the Top 25 to start the season. Losing point guard Darris Nichols also doesn’t help. Not having a backup like Mazzulla for Mazzulla won’t help, either.”

A total of seven Big East team are in this Top 25. Besides WVU, those are No. 3 Pitt, the defending champion; and No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 7 Connecticut, No. 18 Syracuse, No. 19 Georgetown, and No. 21 Louisville.

Texas is No. 1, followed in order by North Carolina, Pitt, Kansas and Notre Dame in the Top 5. After WVU and Connecticut in the next five are Purdue, Memphis and Southern Cal.


SPRING?NUMBERS:?That turnout of an estimated 18,000 fans for Saturday’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage at Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium reportedly was the second largest crowd ever for that annual event.

And net proceeds should put the total well over $500,000 which WVU Children’s Hospital will have received since retied head coach Don Nehlen designated that as a most worthy cause.

The weather couldn’t have been better. It was sunny with a high of 78 degrees.


RECORD?DAY:?Zides Sport Shop, which owns the WV Team Shop in the Coliseum, probably had another record-breaking day for sales of Mountaineer clothing.

Chuck Phares, who is the Team Shop sales manager, planned to have merchandise available at the stadium.

He told me recently, “We’ve enjoyed a banner year in sales during both football and basketball home games.”


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