Xavier Musketeers (29-6) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (26-10)
When: Tonight, 7:10 p.m.
1. ESPN got something right? Prior to the start of this year's tournament, espn.com "experts" provided some insight into various players and teams in the tourney. Three of these so-called experts labeled sophomore forward Derrick Brown as the best dunker in the tournament. For once I actually agree with them because of this and this.
2. You Can Have The Logo. Xavier's sweet 16 opponent, the West Virginia Mountaineers often get associated with Jerry West as one of their most famous alumnus. Well, to that I say you can have your logo, and I'll keep my Mike Damone. Xavier alum Robert Romanus played Mike Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
3. It's All About the Blob. The Musketeers are a bit odd when it comes to mascots. As you would expect, D'Artagnan is prominently featured at Xavier games and around campus. Unfortunately, D'Artagnan is overshadowed by the greatest mascot in the history of sports, The Blue Blob. The Blob was once named Playboy's Mascot of the Month, has appeared in numerous SportsCenter commercials, has his own Bobblehead, er, Bobblebody, and was a memorable part of giving a man $1 million in the 2001 Crosstown Shootout; the Blob was tackled by Theo Nelson following his half-court shot at halftime of the game. — Brian Leibforth
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
1. Giant Killers. West Virginia has advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in the past four seasons and the fourth time in as many tries. Over those trips, WVU has garnered the reputation as a sort of giant killer, toppling #2 seeds with some regularity. This year, of course, was the public "pantsing" of #2 seed Duke last round. Three years ago, the Mountaineers (with the unconscious Mike Gansey) knocked out Chris Paul's #2 seeded Wake Forest squad in double OT. And back in 1998, the Mountaineers beat #2 seed Cincinnati — under then-coach Bob Huggins — with a last second "prayer" from Jarrod West. While modern HDTV advancements would greatly improve the 1998 highlights, it's best any 2005 highlights featuring Kevin Pittsnogle be viewed on nothing larger than a Sony Watchman.
2. Huggy Bear, Yep. Bob Huggins, beside being a fantastic basketball coach and a good driver, is also a natty dresser. Just this year, he has run the entire gamut of fashion choices. Early this season, Huggins trotted out in a traditional coat and tie. Not satisfied with that, Huggins upped the ante, debuting his now infamous mustard accident. Obviously traumatized by the experiment, Huggins reverted to his later Cincinnati days, coaching each game in the same snazzy — in a Bill Belichick kind of way — gold and blue WVU pullover. Luckily the dark cloud that was the pullover has lifted, though it has been replaced with a sportcoat and mock turtleneck look that would make Mike Brey blush. Of course, it's the same color mock turtleneck for every game, meaning either he's bought a dozen of them or he's simply wearing the same one over and over. For the sake of my sanity — let alone anyone standing near him — let's assume it's the former.
3. The Xavier Connection. While there isn't much head-to-head history between WVU and tonight's opponent Xavier, there are plenty of connections between the two schools. While at Cincinnati, Bob Huggins regularly coached against Xavier in a fierce crosstown Cincinnati rivalry. Sean Miller, the current head coach at Xavier, was a four-year letter winner and Big East Freshman of the Year at Pitt. Miller, who still owns several records at Pitt, compiled a sparkling 1-3 career record against WVU. Given Miller's Pitt bloodlines, his career record against WVU, the fact that Xavier has never beaten the Mountaineers, and the fact that a #7 seed is favored over a #3 seed, WVU should start preparing for UCLA on Saturday. Considering the size of the jinx I just delivered, the Mountaineers may end up forfeiting. Tune in tonight. (I'm looking at you 17% of the country that's getting the game.) — Charley West