BUFFALO - The sting of being passed over for a No. 1 NCAA regional seed has subsided for Big East Tournament champion West Virginia. Coach Bob Huggins said he appreciates the difficulty of the selection committee's job.
But after being one of five teams in the mix for a No. 1 seed, Huggins couldn't help but wonder how the Mountaineers wound up in the East Region with Kentucky, which is the second overall team in the tournament behind Kansas. It's tantamount to a 2-7 matchup if they face each other in the Elite Eight.
"I was a little surprised we weren't a higher two ," Huggins said. "But I'm sure there's reasons. I'm not sure what they are."
The first priority for the Mountaineers now is to focus on first-round opponent Morgan State, a 15th seed that has beaten such majors as Maryland and Arkansas this season. It was just last season that West Virginia lost its first-round game to 11th-seeded Dayton.
"The coaches drilled it in our heads, but I don't think we were focused on Dayton," said Da"Sean Butler, MVP of the Big East tourney. "Honestly, I'm just thinking aobut Morgan State right now."
GONZAGA MAKES NAME FOR ITSELF: There was a time when folks looked at their tournament brackets and had to ask, "What's a Gonzaga?" But the Bulldogs are making their 12th straight appearance in the tournament this year as an eighth seed against ninth-seeded Florida State. Zags coach Mark Few called his school's NCAA streak "the thing we're most proud of."
Gonzaga was forced to travel from Spokane to play its first two West Region games in Buffalo, where it will likely face top seed Syracuse in the second round if it beats Florida State. But the Zags are used to criss-crossing the country to play a strong intersectional schedule.
Basketball success has had a powerful impact on the small Catholic school. "Prior to our first NCAA appearance, we had an enrollment of about 2,800," Few said. "Now, it's over 7,000. We built a brand new arena. The leadership of trhe school, from the president, the board of trustees to the athletic director, Mike Ropth, down to myself, has been a very cohesive unit that understands, if you invest in your basketball program, it can be a giant window or door for a bunch of people to see into your university."
LOOK, UP IN THE SKY: As tough as it might be for Todd Bozeman's Morgan State Bears to face West Virginia in the first round, he considers it an easier assignment than last season's task of going against Oklahoma and No. 1 NBA draft pick Blake Griffin in the first round. "The difference is Superman was here last year," Bozeman said, referring to Griffin. "We went up against Superman, and we did not have any kryptonite. It's more of a business approach this year. They're not goggle-eyed and all that stuff."