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WVU adjusts NCAA travel plans ahead of storm

By BOB HERTZEL

Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When the weather forecast is calling for a winter storm up north there are two places you don’t want to be — the North Pole and Buffalo.

Fortunately, for West Virginia and its fans, there is no NCAA Tournament site at the North Pole, so, naturally, they found themselves drawn into Thursday-Saturday games in Buffalo.

And that was why WVU coach Bob Huggins was late getting on the Big 12 Conferences coaches pre-NCAA Tournament call on Monday, being caught up in travel meetings.

While they thought sending WVU to Buffalo, just 250 miles away from home, was doing them and their fans a favor, instead they are sending them into a storm.

All day Tuesday and Wednesday the forecast calls for temperatures that feel like they are in single digits with winds upward to 20 miles an hour and 75 percent to 95 percent chance of snow … and when they are talking about snow in Buffalo, it isn’t if they get it there.

So, Huggins and company decided on a 24-hour early departure from Morgantown for the entire traveling party to get in and settled in Buffalo and hit the practice floor.

Bucknell, the Mountaineers’ opponent, doesn’t have quite as far to go up to Lake Erie.

Huggins mentioned during his press conference on Monday night that after a tough run through three games in three days of the Big 12 Tournament, he has a banged up team that needs to do some healing.

That, of course, leads to the inevitable question of whether it’s worth it to push yourself in an effort to win the league title or perhaps to lose early in that tournament and rest up for the NCAAs, as Baylor did.

“The silver lining in losing the first game of the Big 12 Tournament is we got a chance to recover,” assured Baylor coach Scott Drew. “We will be healthier than we have been in a long time, which is important because it’s win or go home time.”

Kansas, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, plays on Friday-Sunday against the winner of the NC Central-UC Davis play-in game, which doesn’t figure to be much of a challenge considering that a No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16, but there remains the distraction of Josh Jackson, the star freshman who missed the Big 12 Tournament after being accused of vandalism on a female student’s car.

That grew even into a thicker plot a couple of days ago when Jackson’s attorney was accused of offering a payoff to the female student to make the problem go away, and coach Bill Self was asked to address that situation during the call and if he had seen anything that might prevent him from playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“Hell no,” he answered emphatically. “Does that answer your question?”

Then he went on to say there have been some things that have been written, and that there was an athlete from another sport that had commented on some things and that a father of an athlete had said things.

“To be real candid with you, I’m mad at the situation but I’m not necessarily pointing fingers and saying I’m mad an individual or a parent, or anything like that, because here’s the reality of it,” Self said.

“You don’t know, I don’t know, he doesn’t know everything that has transpired. I wouldn’t talk to him, nor would I ever attempt to do so, nor would I ever talk about an athlete from another program. We would never do that.

“The one thing, I don’t know what the women’s basketball program has told those parties or educated them to what was going on, so if I’m a parent and I haven’t been educated I can see being very upset if university or the women’s basketball program hasn’t shared with them what’s going on.

“If it has been shared and all the facts are out there and things are being said, that’s disappointing, but Josh’s mother, having acquired representation and those attorneys are held to a certain code, there’s nothing I would be remotely concerned about unethical things taking place.”

Oklahoma State’s Brad Underwood, who ruined Huggins’ March last year when he upset WVU while at Stephen F. Austin, gets a chance in this tournament to upset the man Huggins replaced at WVU, John Beilein, when he takes on Michigan in the first round.

Michigan and Beilein are America’s darlings, of course, having survived a plane crash to play in the Big 10 Tournament, playing the first game while missing their game jerseys before going on to win the whole thing as the No. 8 seed.

Underwood knows Michigan and Beilein will offer something different — as he always has — when he goes against Oklahoma State.

“It’s something we haven’t seen a great deal of in our league … a true 5-man who can step out and make six or seven 3s a game,” Underwood said.

Does that bring back some Kevin Pittsnogle memories to Beilein followers from WVU?

“We’ve seen a lot of 4s who can do it, but that’s different Moritz Wagner doing it. They run a lot of offense through him,” Underwood said.

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