Crutchfield Expecting Bowie St.

WEST LIBERTY – Jim Crutchfield and his No. 1-ranked West Liberty team have found some unique ways to await Selection Sunday, and ultimately, the beginning of next weekend’s Atlantic Regional Tournament.

By coughing. And sneezing. And drinking plenty of fluids.

In that respect, it’s a good thing the West Virginia Conference Tournament took place a week earlier than some of the others in Division II for the Hilltoppers.

”The bug’s kinda been going around this week,” said a raspy-voiced Crutchfield, himself unable to avoid it.

Outside of that, they’re practicing and waiting for the NCAA to tell them the obvious Sunday night (10:30 p.m. (EDT), live webcast at They’ll play host to a third straight Atlantic Regional Tournament, set for March 16, 17 and 19.

Crutchfield is sure the ASRC will be the home base for it, and he’s got a pretty good idea his team will be playing against unranked Bowie State (16-13), which rattled off four straight victories to pull out a monumental upset in the CIAA Tournament after entering it with a losing record.

”I don’t see any way we don’t play them,” the coach said.

Anyone who attended the 2011 regional will remember Bowie State and its traveling band and dancing girls.

”People were disappointed when they didn’t make it last year,” Crutchfield said.

As for the two-week layoff for his Hilltoppers, Crutchfield isn’t concerned, as you might expect.

”I think you can convince yourself (it’s a problem) if you want to,” he said. ”Probably think it’s more of an advantage than a disadvantage. We want to stay on the positive side. You can’t give yourself excuses.”

Nor is he worried that many expect his two-time defending regional champions to roll right through another one.

”Once those teams get there, the idea that West Liberty is supposed to win goes out the window,” Crutchfield said.

”Every team in this thing has a chance to win it. We’re just one of them. If you have a bad day, you’re out and someone else moves on.”

The status on injured WLU point guard Cedric Harris is still up in the air. The original diagnosis called for four weeks of rehab. The first regional game will take place three weeks and two days following the injury.

”It’s going to be close,” Crutchfield said. ”He’s doing everything humanly possible. Every free minute, he’s getting treatment. One bad day, it could cost him. I think he’s going to play. He’s worked hard all year. He’s worked hard in his rehabilitation.”