West Virginia University has one of the most faithful fan bases of any school in the country. But this recent loss in the NCAA tourney is like a bad cold, it lingers and you just can’t shake it. I guess it will take time. There is no cure.
Stealing a social media line from my witty son-in-law John Mullins – I think this says it best for West Virginia fans: #DePRESSed VIRGINIA.
That is how most Mountaineer fans felt after last Friday night’s upset lost to No. 14 Stephen F. Austin in the first round of the Big Dance.
After all, WVU had a great regular season playing in arguably the best conference in college basketball – the Big 12. They beat the No. 1 overall ranked team in Kansas, defeated a No. 2 seed and former top ranked team Oklahoma in the Big 12 tourney and finished with 25 wins heading to the Big Dance that we call March Madness. They finished ranked No. 8 in the country in both major polls.
But this WVU team that many of us came to love, sure laid an egg against SFU. Of course it is close to Easter, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.
Many fans and even the “expert” commentators felt WVU could make a strong run into the tourney. Some even thought they would make it to the Final Four.
The Kentucky and Marshall fans have had a heyday teasing the local Mountaineer faithful on Facebook. But who can blame them?
WVU did not live up to their potential and had one of the most disappointing performances in school history.
I read one article that the squad had some bad practices leading into the tourney. John Wooden, the great UCLA coach said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” That is one of my favorite quotes of all-time.
West Virginia has never won a NCAA national championship in basketball. (Thank goodness for the Rifle team that recently won its 18th NCAA title!) WVU came close with Jerry West losing to Cal by one point, 71-70, back in 1958. They also have a pair of NIT banners. One of those was from 1942 when the NIT was the top tournament in the United States, so they do have a national championship if you count that one. The other was under former coach John Beilein back in 2007.
They’ve had some big wins over the years, but most of the time it seems that WVU fans end up down and depressed. Not just in basketball, but football too. Remember the 13-9 loss to Pitt in football that knocked the Mountaineers out of a chance to play for a national title.
Then there was the loss to Notre Dame on the Major Harris team back in 1989 and a chance for a national championship in football.
It is tough to be a Mountaineer fan. Some of us could use counseling after a loss like they suffered this past Friday night.
But, you can’t be a fair-weather fan. I know most of us will be cheering for the blue and gold come football season and when Coach Bob Huggins’ squad rolls out the carpet next season, we’ll be hopeful again. They will have three new recruits to go with some good returning players.
Sure, many WVU fans were extremely disappointed with a loss to a mid-major team in the first round. But it is called March Madness. Michigan State, a team picked by many to win the championship, also lost to a No. 15 seed in the first round. There were several other upsets.
WVU, a No. 3 seed, was one of those, but you have to give Stephen F. Austin credit, they came to play. They beat the Mountaineers’ press and Thomas Walkup (33 points, 19-20 free throws) made WVU defenders look like Buddy League players. They out-hustled the Mountaineers and just plain ole kicked butt.
It’s tough to be a West Virginia fan. But the next time we hear Country Roads blaring over the PA system, we’ll be singing along and showing our Mountaineer pride.
And hope that maybe one day we can hang just one banner from the coliseum rafters in Morgantown.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern)