INDIANAPOLIS - It's been 18 years since Bob Huggins was in a Final Four and he'll return to his game's greatest stage in Saturday's 8:47 p.m. game against Duke at Lucas Oil Stadium.
A younger man with a sophisticated wardrobe at a different school back then, Huggins insists other things haven't changed dramatically since.
"I don't think I'm a whole lot different," he said. "Obviously I'm older. Hopefully, as you get older and you experience a lot of things, you get smarter. Other than that, I don't know."
He's taking the experiences of his first Final Four to his second and while he wants his players to have as much fun as possible, he also wants them to feel as normal as possible.
"They're not used to having people around 24-7," Huggins said. "You want to be very accommodating, but at the same time, you don't want them to be overwhelmed. The last time was crazy. Everyone else had their teams on lockdown and I didn't. That didn't have anything to do with losing the game. We missed shots and missed free throws, but you want for things to just be normal."
The Mountaineers had a private practice Tuesday and again Wednesday before leaving Morgantown, but it wasn't always that way with Huggins. The practices before Cincinnati's Final Four were open and very popular.
"I didn't want them to get uptight and I was afraid if I started to pull back things, they'd get upright," he said. "We ended up with like 12,000 people in there. It's hard to practice with 12,000 people in there. That wasn't very smart on my part. I think you have to do some things and me trying to keep things normal, I probably made things very abnormal."
Huggins eventually put an end to open practices one day when a "jerk," as Huggins remembered, dialed a radio station, put his cell phone on the court and let the listening audience in on practice.
"I exercised tremendous strength not kicking his ass," Huggins said. "And I told everyone who it was and it was because of him I didn't want them in practice any more. I couldn't trust them."
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WVU'S ELITE Eight victory against Kentucky was still sinking in among the non-believers. Da'Sean Butler was not among them, but was leading the I-told-you-so crowd.
"Forty-nine states picked us to lose," he said. "Obviously, we wanted to make everybody upset. We went out there and played our game. We grinded it out. We won. I knew we were going to win. Everybody up here knew we were going to win. It was a matter of how we were going to do it."
Turns out ESPN had shown the results of a survey asking who'd win and go onto the Final Four and only West Virginia had selected the Mountaineers. How did Butler know this?