USA Today Sports

Juwan Staten sat out Sunday’s practice to rest his sprained ankle, according to coach Bob Huggins. His readiness—and West Virginia’s urgency to keep playing—will be crucial to Tuesday night’s NIT opener at Georgetown.


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The motivation meter has been in full motion during the 24 hours since West Virginia and Georgetown learned of their NIT encounter.

Who wants this game more? Which team embraces the springboard effect and which team is effectually bored with playing in a B-side tournament?

On the who’s-happier-to-be-here scale, West Virginia looks like the winner. After being picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll—back when there stood a chance players named Macon and Holton might play—WVU finished sixth even without those guys. Add in the frequently-bemoaned fact that its roster is completely devoid of seniors, and WVU, theoretically, stands to gain plenty from an NIT experience.

The Hoyas, meanwhile, were picked second in the gerrymandered Big East but swooned to seventh place, capped by the even grander indignity of a first-day shelling in the league tournament by DePaul. What’s more, Georgetown features four seniors among its top eight regulars, seniors who planned on finishing their careers in the NCAAs.

Of course, such generalizations don’t always fit the team. Some are better equipped for bouncing back even when conventional wisdom points otherwise.

“You’re upset, mad, frustrated—that whole gamut of emotions. That’s the bus ride home,” coach John Thompson III said of the Hoyas’ embarrassing ouster from Madison Square Garden last week. “Then you get re-energized when you realize, ‘Okay, we’re still going to be able to play.’”

And playing against an old conference rival, which enriches the storyline a bit. At least it does on the Georgetown side, where some veterans actually remember facing and losing to West Virginia in 2011 and 2012. The lone Mountaineer with any hand-to-Hoya combat is junior Kevin Noreen, who played 11 scoreless minutes in a 74-62 win in Morgantown on Jan. 7, 2012.

That’s precious little experience guarding JT3′s Princeton-style offense, and Bob Huggins has precious few hours to teach his new players the ways to disrupt it. The quick-turn nature of the NIT gave the teams only one full practice and a game day walk-through to prepare.

“There’s not enough time” for detailed opponent preparation, said Huggins. “When we used to play them in the league we had two or three days to prepare.”

He called the 48-hour window from pairings to playing “less than ideal,” but that’s the NIT in a nutshell. Teams who put aside those circumstances and embrace the chance to keep improving are the ones who tend to keep playing.

Tipoff: Tuesday, 7 p.m. in Washington, D.C. at McDonough Arena (ESPN) … Why is the 2,500-seat campus arena is hosting a men’s game for the first time since December 2009? Because the Ringling Bros. circus is setting up for a Thursday opening at the Verizon Center. The venue figures to be packed by Georgetown donors given dibs on the limited tickets and students granted free admission to fill whatever seats remain.WVU received 150 tickets for the school’s traveling party.
Records: Georgetown (17-14) crushed Kansas State by 27 points in Puerto Rico, knocked off Michigan State at MSG and also beat Creighton, VCU, Providence and Xavier—all of whom made the NCAA field. The negatives were upset losses to Northeastern (RPI 213), a sweep at the hands of Seton Hall (RPI 124) and the first loss to DePaul in 20 years. … West Virginia (17-15) went 6-12 against NCAA qualifiers, highlights by upsets one Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor. The worst loss RPI-wise came in November at No. 239 Virginia Tech, which won only nine games.
Coach: John Thompson III stands 226-103 in 10 years at Georgetown after going 68-42 in four seasons leading Princeton.
Georgetown’s top players:The dangerous guard tandem of senior Markel Starks (17 points per game) and sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (16.9 points) has combined for 312 3-point shots and 314 free-throw tries. The only other player who average double figures was 6-10 UCLA transfer Joshua Smith, who played only 13 games before being ruled academically ineligible for spring semester. … Smith’s troubles meant more minutes for 6-9 junior Mikael Hopkins (6.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 blocks) and rugged senior Nate Lubick (5.1 points, 5.5 rebounds). But Huggins said the Hoyas still get in the paint via back cuts. “They’re still going to get it at the rim by back-cutting, they run good side ball-screens and middle ball-screens.”
WVU roster notes: Despite spraining his ankle during the loss to Texas in the Big 12 quarterfinals, Juwan Staten (18 points, 5.8 assists, 5.8 rebounds) vowed he’d be ready to play in WVU’s next game. Huggins was noncommittal Monday about the status of his All-Big 12 point guard. “He didn’t go (Sunday) at practice,” Huggins said. “There’s no swelling, but other than that I don’t know.” … Eron Harris scored a season-low three points in the 66-49 loss to the Longhorns, quite a dropoff from his 28-point game in the regular-season finale against Kansas. … Remi Dibo is averaging 4.7 points in WVU’s last four games on 6-of-22 shooting and hasn’t gotten to the foul line once. … Devin Williams’ stark of three double-doubles ended with a thud in Kansas City , where he managed oily two points and three boards in 28 minutes against Texas.
Line: Georgetown favored by 3 1/2
Pick: Georgetown 71-64
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  • Charles

    As expected, another disappointing loss. This is getting so old. First football, now men's basketball. We must rank at the bottom when it comes to coaches. Don't tell me to wait till next year-next year there will be some other excuse. Huggins is responsible for what he puts on the floor. He ran off the people he didn't want back from last year's team and can't get anything out of the players he has this year. We're sure not getting our $3 million dollars worth. I think his time has passed and let's move on to the next coach. Someone who can recruit and get the guys interested in showing up for the game. I wonder the excuses will be for this loss and the whole season. They didn't get better-they just played as if they didn't care. Juwan Staten better stay in school. He sure isn't an NBA prospect right now.

  • mad hatter

    this is our ten thousand dollar a day man. I can't say how embarrassed i have been this and last season... especially last season.
    this yr, we did have some ups,, no doubt.
    For sure, we need a coaching change now, not next yr, but now, this game has passed this coach by, It is terrible when the players are ashamed of their coach.

  • pghmountaineer

    I've said this before. It's one thing to put a team on the floor that doesn't belong there. But when you're paying the kind of money these coaches are paid (football and basketball) you expect more. Our major programs have sunk to new lows for all the millions that the school is paying the coaching staffs.
    We need to find a gig like that.

  • mad hatter

    let's be realistic,, we lack spirit, talent, and coaching,, that's why we faded just like i said we'd do..
    If staten goes pro, we're dead in the water next yr .too.

  • pghmountaineer

    Finally, it's over. Thank goodness.

  • pghmountaineer

    RJ, Not sure that football is going to be any better. We'll have to wait and see.

  • RJ

    Georgetown completely embarrassed Huggs crew tonight. Like I have said this is a mediocre team. Thank goodness this lousy team has finished the season. Bring on football.

    • Frank/Moundsville

      RJ are you ready to be slaughtered by Alabama already?

  • pghmountaineer

    Another disappointing season comes to an end.

    I will say the NIT should be embarrassed for allowing the game to be played in that venue.
    Makes it look like a Division 3 game.

  • Frank/Moundsville

    What a totally pathetic second half of basketball................

  • pghmountaineer

    I agree Neil. It is discouraging.
    Don't see this changing.

  • Billy

    Higgins looks like Butterbean the boxer.

    • Frank/Moundsville

      ..............wearing garb from Omar's Tent Shop.

  • Neil

    How many times this year, we are leading at half time to get beat the second half

  • Neil

    It's a sad day to be a mountaineer!!!

  • Billy

    What a sad season

  • pghmountaineer

    Frank, Trust me, it ain't happening.