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Da'Sean: West Virginia Picks Us

April 1, 2010

MORGANTOWN - So, West Virginia is playing against the odds-on favorite to win the NCAA Tournament ... again.

"I guess so," said second-team All-American Da'Sean Butler, whose team just did that in the Elite Eight when everyone thought Kentucky was the best of the rest.

"I guess we have to pull off another miracle."

Article Photos

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins waves to the crowd at the Coliseum during a sendoff rally for the men's college basketball team Wednesday.

If the Mountaineers, a No. 2-seed, were to win the tourney, they'd wind up being the only team in the field of 65 to have knocked off two No. 1s.

The books at Las Vegas don't think that's going to happen, as they've installed Duke, West Virginia's national semifinal opponent and the last top seed remaining, as the favorite at 7-5 odds. The Mountaineers are listed at 2-1.

"It's just a matter of what we do on the court," said Butler, who doesn't just relish the underdog role, he needs it to get himself going.

"We might not have the prettiest game in the world, but I think we do take care of late-game situations. We play very well in the last half. And Vegas never really picks us anyways.

"West Virginia does."

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins made it to the Final Four one other time, but his 1991-92 Cincinnati team came up short in the semifinals.

What would it mean if this team of underdogs finally got this legendary college basketball coach a national championship ring? One that says West Virginia, his home state, on it?

Everything, Butler said.

"If you look at us, we were talking about it the other day," Butler said. "You have Joe (Mazzulla), who has one arm. I'm probably one of the most unathletic black guys you'll see in your life.

"We got Cam Thoroughman and other guys on the team that people look at and say 'can't score or can't shoot,' and we'll be the team to give him his first national championship, compared, you know, to the Kenyon Martins and the professionals he's had on his old teams in Cincinnati.

"We kind of laugh about it and joke around, but it would mean the world to us if we did something like that."

Huggins knows it.

One of the few times he gets emotional is when he thinks about what it would mean for a West Virginia team to win a national title.

"What makes it special is how it's uplifted the spirits of the people in this state," Huggins said. "People here have so much pride in the state and the work ethic and what this state stands for. I think winning a national championship, unless you're from here, you don't understand.

"This is their Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Yankees all rolled into one."

What a story it would be.

West Virginia wasn't the best team in its conference - until the end. It's not loaded with All-Americans - McDonald's or Associated Press. The Mountaineers have fought through injuries, suspensions, and, of course, stereotypes. It comes with the uniform.

"They've persevered through a lot of things," Huggins said of the Final Four run. "We didn't have Dev (Ebanks) for three games, and then he hurt his hand and really didn't play as well as he could play until his hand healed up. And Joe really played on one arm for probably two-thirds of the season. We tried to get Deniz (Kilicli) in after missing (20) games, so it hasn't been as smooth as what certainly you'd like for it to be, but they've really persevered."

They've got two more obstacles on the court.

Then maybe they'll have fewer of them in the future from Sin City.

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