What if the Mountaineers were playing Monday night? Maybe the audio is again pumped into the mines. Or maybe the game is so big miners call off work to watch at home or somewhere more comfortable than miles under the Earth's surface.
What if it was WVU playing Butler? There'd be no doubt the people of the state who have such an intensely personal relationship with WVU would also have a unique partnership with the Mountaineers and with overlapping events that are anything from sad to tragic. It seems something always conspires to spoil a moment WVU and its fans are supposed to enjoy.
What if WVU had a chance to cut down those nets at Lucas Oil Stadium? Monday would have been a day of indescribable anxiety. Friends and families affected by the explosion and roof collapse at Upper Big Branch, about 45 miles south of Charleston, would be awaiting far more important news than a final score.
Surely the players would have been distracted and a big part of the biggest day of their lives would be spent worrying about the very people who worry so much about their success.
It is Huggins, after all, who tells the story about how a friend found him soon after he was hired in 2007 and provided perspective. The friend told Huggins coal is not West Virginia's greatest export.
"It is," Huggins relayed, "the people."
In 2006, a methane explosion at Sago Mine in Upshur County trapped 13 people and only one would come out alive a few days later. The night of the explosion the Mountaineers played in the Sugar Bowl and defeated Georgia.
"It's a tough day for the state and hopefully this victory, because we have so much pride, will help people feel good about themselves," said then-Coach Rich Rodriguez, whose father, brothers and uncles were miners. "It's only football, but we wanted to do something to lift our people's spirits. We always want to play well, but tonight especially.''
Not three weeks later, two men were trapped in a Logan County mine fire. They were found dead two days later and hours before the WVU basketball team won at UCLA.
"West Virginians are very proud people and we've had a rough time lately and a rougher time today with the discovery the two miners did not make it," then-Coach John Beilein said. "At this time of the year, Mountaineers basketball is pretty big, so I hope we made a lot of people happy today. It's been a very tough January for everybody."
What if WVU had a game Monday night? The Mountaineers would have taken the emotional hit, confronted the occasion and done everything to prevail. As much as WVU sports has a mystique of misery in big moments, WVU sports has a way of lifting up its followers. For that reason, above anything else about Butler or about basketball, there may have been no beating the Mountaineers.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.