West Virginia Mountaineers (24-10) vs. Arizona Wildcats (19-14)
When: Thursday, 9:40 p.m.
Where: Washington, D.C.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
1. Next Year, Buy Us Presents. West Virginia has played 99 illustrious years of basketball, compiling an impressive 61.4 percent winning percentage and a trip to the 1959 NCAA title game. WVU hasn't been as lucky with several opponents, however, owning overall losing records against Steubenville Athletic Club, Smith Skating Rink and the Parkersburg (W.Va.) YMCA. Though, in our defense, both losses to the Parkersburg YMCA came on the road.
2. He Can't Run For President. Over the last six games of the season, junior forward Joe Alexander torched opponents for 26.8 points per game. He was also named First Team All Big East. Alexander, despite having American parents, was born in Taiwan and lived eight years abroad while his father worked for Nestle. After some research, it seems Alexander is already the most successful Taiwanese basketball player in history, just besting Yulon veteran Chen Hsin-an.
3. Ann Arbor's A Woman of Questionable Morals. Michigan coach John Beilein, who left WVU after five seasons because he felt he couldn't recruit to Morgantown, recently failed to sign a top 100 recruiting class to play in Ann Arbor. This, of course, on top of the stellar 10-22 record he compiled in his first season. Bob Huggins, meanwhile, just put the finishing touches on a 24-10 record and a top 20 recruiting class. Did Beilein make a good decision? From WVU's perspective, he certainly did. — Charley West
1. Depth That Rivals A Wading Pool. If we were comparing depth, a team like Tennessee might be an aging porn actress while the Wildcats are a young virgin, still contemplating how long "true love" actually lasts. The Wildcats have three (3!) players that are averaging over 8.8 points a game and only five players averaging over four points a game. Along with the problems of balanced scoring, only one player is averaging more than 5.3 rebounds a game and only two cheerleaders are charting more than six back-handsprings a game, down from last year.
2. Lutey Patooty. Lute Olson isn't coaching this year because he's traveling through the big D and doesn't mean Dallas. Olson has brought the Wildcats to the big dance 23 straight years, the longest active streak in the NCAA, but won't be on hand to see them shuffling their feet this year. His divorce from Christine has sidelined the 73-year-old coach for the season, with interim Kevin O'Neill taking over for those Silver Locks. The strangest part about it all - when his wife Bobbi died in 2001 Olson only missed six games, coming back to lead the Wildcats to his fourth Final Four.
3. Freshman Phenom. If you didn't know, Jerryd Bayless is good. He's Eric Gordon with the ability to finish. He's D.J. Augustin with a tremendous amount of confidence. He's Tyler Hansborough but shorter and not as much a center. The Phoenix native is averaging 21 points a game at 47 percent shooting. Bayless is a one-and-done candidate, already making waves in pre-draft boards that have him as high as the fifth pick to the New York Knicks (stay another year Jerryd!). The Wildcats are 11-4 when Bayless scores 20 or more points and struggled to a 1-3 record when Bayless was injured in the middle of the season. —Shane Bacon.