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Mountaineers face unknown in opener

WVU to meet winner of UAB-Clemson Thursday in Tampa

March 14, 2011
By JOHN WICKLINE, Staff Writer

MORGANTOWN - About the only thing the West Virginia University basketball team knows for sure is that if it wins Thursday night, it will play Kentucky in the second round. But anything before that remains up in the air.

WVU, 20-11, is the fifth seed in the East Regional for the NCAA tournament that begins with several match-ups on Tuesday. The Mountaineers will play the winner of the University of Alabama-Birmingham/Clemson contest. That game tips off at 9 p.m. Tuesday in Dayton.

WVU coach Bob Huggins isn't particularly thrilled about the way the tournament, which features an expanded field of 68 for the first time, is set up. He believes those playing the winners of a "buy-in" game should not have to play until Friday.

"These play-in games have always been for a 16th seed," he said Sunday after the pairings were revealed. "But these games, the seeds have risen dramatically. This takes away a day of preparation."

Huggins said one assistant will break down film of the Blazers, while another will review Clemson.

"You don't have any idea of what to prepare for," he said. "But you try to be as prepared as possible, and don't get surprised."

Clemson comes into the tournament following a loss to North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. The Tigers finished the year 21-11 and 9-7 in the ACC. They are led by Demontez Stitt, who averages 14.7 poings per game. He has also distributed the ball for 101 assists, and he has 41 steals.

Jerai Grant averages about 12 points per contests, and he leads the team with a 6.7 rebounds per game average. He has also blocked 77 shots. Andre Young, a 40 percent shooter from behind the 3-point line, adds another 10 points per game to the Tigers' scoring, and he has 97 assists and a team-high 43 steals.

The Mountaineers last played Clemson in the championship game of the 2007 National Invitational Tournament, a game WVU won 78-73.

UAB was the regular-season champion of Conference-USA with a 12-4 record. The Blazers, 22-8 overall, bowed out to East Carolina in the tournament. Jamarr Sanders leads the team with a 17.7 points per game scoring average, followed by Cameron Moore, 14.3, and Aaron Johnson, 12.0. Moore is the team's leading rebounder, pulling down 9.4 per game. Johnson has dished out 232 assists for UAB, but he has also turned the ball over 104 times.

The winner of Thursday's game in Tampa will take on the winner of the Kentucky-Princeton contest.

"It's hard to look ahead in the NCAA tournament, but you see that when they bring (the brackets) out," said WVU guard Jonnie West. "We'll talk about that game if we advance."



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