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Only Thing Left Now is to Play the Game

April 3, 2010

FINAL THOUGHTS before the Final Four:

(1) There's a reason for the term ''March Madness.'' It's because the chalk picks in the annual NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament often aren't on target with the numerous upsets causing rapid fans various degrees of ''madness.''

In case you're wondering where the term ''March Madness'' orginated, it wasn't at the NCAA event. It was first used by an Illinois journalist writing about the competitive Illinois high school championships. A national TV sportscaster picked up on the Illinois term and it caught on nationally. But not after some legal threats from the Illinois folks. But all turned out well and it's used throughout the college, and high school, tournaments.

Article Photos


West Virginia players gather after practice Friday in Indianapolis.

(2) It's not exactly accurate to suggest that the current West Virginia University team is seeking the school's first national championship. That claim is made by the 1942 Mountaineers squad which won the three-game National Invitation Tournament in New York City's Madison Square Garden. The well-established NIT, at that time, was regarded as a stronger tournament than the youthful NCAA event and the winner was generally accepted as the national titlist.

The 1942 WVU team captain was RUDY BARIC, a Benwood Union High School product, and OVAC Legends honoree, who served as the head coach the following year. Another key member was Moundsville's ROGER (SHORTY) HICKS. WVU's initial first team All-American in '42 was SCOTTY HAMILTON, from Grafton.

(3) WVU head coach BOB HUGGINS knows how to deflect attention, and unneccesary pressure, away from his players and onto himself. The unconventional, no-tie coach has donned the familiar dark, ''dress'' sweat suit on the sidelines during games and this has been a topic of conversation in several quarters.

But this is nothing new in the coaching Huggins family. Bob's father, CHARLEY, is a legendary, retired high school mentor in Ohio and always sported a flannel shirt on the sidelines. Nobody ever saw him wear a coat or tie at a game.

(4) Huggins was a four-year high school starter for his father-coach. The first two season were at Conotton Valley, where he set the existing Ohio Valley point average record of 30.2 points a game for a sophomore. The final two years were at Indian Valley South where the Rebels capped an unbeaten 1972 season with an Ohio championship as Huggins was named state Player of the Year. Huggins scored 2,438 career points, 11th best in Ohio history.

(5) One of the game officials in that 1972 Ohio tournament in Columbus was Wheeling's NICK VISNIC, a long-time area arbiter before relocating in 1982 to Pompano Beach, Fla. Visnic, a sophomore member of the 1959 WVU team and NCAA runner-up, also recalls officiating a 1981-82 game between Walsh and Fairmont State when Huggins was coach at Walsh.

(6) Huggins is moving up the charts in NCAA coaching history. The current WVU record 31 victories pushed his career total to 670 and passed the legendary UCLA coach JOHN WOODEN, who had 664, on the charts. Huggins now ranks 21st all-time and could become the 20th coach in history to win 700 Division I games.

(6) DORON LAMB, a 6-foot-4 guard at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., has narrowed his college choices to Kentucky, Kansas, West Virginia and Arizona. He scored 12 points in 14 minutes at Wednesday night's McDonald's All-America Game in Columbus. In his final game, the next day, he scored 20 as Oak Hill was upset, 59-53 by Mountain State Academy of Beckley, W. Va. Lamb, and WVU recruit NOAH COTTRILL of Logan, W. Va., will be honored on the Parade All-America teams announced Sunday.

(7) LEE PATRONE, a key sophomore member of the 1959 WVU NCAA runner-up team, has been a resident of the Miami, Fla., area for more than 25 years. But the Bellaire Bomber, as he was called during his playing days in Morgantown, also coached boys' basketball in the Ohio Valley. He served as the Wintersville High mentor from 1963-69 and his 1966 Warriors team wnet 17-2 with a sectional title.

(8) The current WVU team set a school record with 31 victories and it broke the mark of 29 posted by the 1959 squad. The '59 team ended 29-5. Two of the four regular-season setbacks were in overtime on road games to New York U., and Northwestern. WVU also lost in the finals of Kentucky Invitational to play host to Kentucky and in the first college game, against Virginia, played in the old Charleston Civic Center.

(9) WVU is only 7-17 series-wise against Duke but won the last matchup, in the 2008 NCAA Round of 16. 73-67.

(10) Did anyone notice that the team that knocked WVU out of last year's NCAA Tournament, Dayton, won the NIT event Thursday by defeating the defending NCAA champion, North Carolina?

(11) Enjoy the Final Four weekend.

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