For me, this is the most anticipated of all of the Sunday NCAA Tournament games. These teams played every year from 1982 until three years ago when West Virginia put a stop to the heated rivalry. Both coaches have done their part to fan the flames of this rivalry and it should lead to a highly emotional game.
In 2014, Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni expressed his desire for the programs to meet twice a year, one game at each school. He went on to say that West Virginia not agreeing to the proposal would be a sign that WVU was afraid.
“They back out now, they’re afraid of us,” D’Antoni said. “We’re coming back.”
Huggins, of course, shot back immediately though with this:
“He can say I’m afraid all he wants. I’ve probably coached 1,116 more games than he has. It’s ridiculous to say something like that. We’re afraid. Yeah, we’re really afraid. It’s crazy, you know? We’ve beaten Duke. Mike [Krzyzewski] is a pretty good coach. Was I afraid? I wasn’t afraid playing Duke. Played [Syracuse’s Jim] Boeheim. We used to play him every year. Great coach. I wasn’t afraid. Why would I be afraid?
“The thing that’s most laughable, and I’ll get in trouble for saying it I know, but I’m to the point in my life where I really don’t care. How about this? ‘We’re back.’ That was their sixth loss in a row. ‘We’re back.’ ‘We’re back’ all right. Honestly, it’s laughable.”
So there is a little bad blood between the coaches and you know the NCAA wanted this matchup when they setup this bracket the way they did. Let’s take a look at this matchup:
Jon Elmore HAS to go off again for the Herd to have any kind of shot to win this game. West Virginia, as always, is one of the best defensive teams in the country and Elmore is the best chance for Marshall here. West Virginia and Coach Bob Huggins are known to be great on defensive but inconsistent on the offensive end and that is still true this year. In the end, it comes down to Marshall taking care of the ball and holding their own on the boards if they want to win.
Just be the Mountaineers: be suffocating on defense and don’t let Elmore catch his breath. They also need to take care of the boards in this game.
Prediction: You saw on Friday night that predominately defensive teams can be susceptible to upset. I look for Marshall to grab a quick lead which will lead to West Virginia struggling on the offensive side of the court and they will start to panic. Huggins is a great coach but he is not a great Tournament coach and I think the emotion of Marshall will take them to the sweet 16.
Marshall 83 West Virginia 80
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