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The Time Is Now for WVU

March 16, 2010

OK West Virginia Mountaineers, it's time to start thinking big.

Really big.

As in, national championship big.

Some of them, like point guard Truck Bryant, already are. In a 2-minute, 20-second span Sunday, Bryant mentioned winning a national championship six times.

''We're a 2-seed and we've got one goal in mind,'' Bryant said. ''That's to win a national championship.''

Sometimes deep runs in conference tournaments result in short runs in the NCAA Tournament.

But last week wasn't just any conference tournament. It was the Big East Tournament.

''With (the Big East) being the best conference, what could stop us now?'' asked WVU's Wellington Smith. ''The only thing that can stop us is us. We just have to be mentally and physically prepared for each game.''

Assuming the seeds hold - that's a very dangerous assumption - West Virginia's path to the national title would go like this: Morgan State, Clemson, New Mexico, Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas.

The Mountaineers have won six straight games, those coming against Georgetown twice, Cincinnati twice, Notre Dame and Villanova.

''For sure if you can win six games in a row in the Big East, you can win six games in a row in the (NCAA) Tournament,'' Bryant said. ''We just have to refocus ourselves. We just finished a tournament, now we've got a bigger tournament. Time to move on to bigger and better things. We won the Big East Championship. Now it's time to try to win a national championship.''

Are the next six tougher than the last six?

''Probably not,'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. ''But I think it's style of play. We'll have to adapt to a lot of different styles.''

That's true. The familiarity of those Big East teams is gone. The Mountaineers had played 15 straight games against league foes and 22 of the last 25 have been against conference teams.

Marquette is the only Big East team in the East Regional, and it would have to knock off the 11th and third seed to meet West Virginia in the Sweet 16. Looking farther down the line, it's possible the Mountaineers could face Louisville, Villanova, or Notre Dame in the Final Four, then Syracuse, Georgetown or Pitt in the title game.

''It helps to play against different styles, different coaches that have different methods you have to get ready to guard,'' West Virginia forward Da'Sean Butler said. ''At the end of the day, everybody has different stuff.

''It's good to play against teams that really haven't seen us play and really aren't familiar with us. So it'll be a surprise for us just as much as it will be a surprise for them.''

If the Mountaineers are going to do make a lengthy run - most ''experts'' see them bowing to Kentucky in the Elite Eight - they'll have to avoid what happened to them last year.

''We lost the first round last year. Anybody is capable of losing, so we're definitely going to come to practice ready to practice and ready to win a national championship,'' Bryant said. ''It ended too quickly. We really didn't even get a chance to get our feet wet, but we're back and we're ready to win a national championship.''

That's right.

Bryant said it.

Six times.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at:

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