NEW YORK -- West Virginia beat Pittsburgh, beat the Panthers soundly with badly, beat 'em on offense, and beat 'em by defense.
And with the exception of the people residing among Wheeling and Charleston, or those holding West Virginia diplomas, all anyone will be talking about this morning is Pitt.
They'll debate whether the Panthers, 74-60 victims of the Mountaineers in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, will still be a No. 1 seed. They'll marvel about how a team that won four games in four nights a year ago to win the Big East Tournament couldn't win one game in one night after holding fort as the No. 1 team in the nation at different portions of the season.
Figures. It's been that way all season. Somehow the Mountaineers have managed to fly under the radar despite playing in a conference more hyped than the return of Britney. The really good teams -- Pitt, Louisville, Marquette, Villanova and Connecticut -- earned lots of love. The surprisingly bad teams -- Georgetown and Notre Dame -- get plenty of attention. The middling bubble team -- Providence -- mixed into the intrigue.
West Virginia? The Mountaineers only played without their starting point guard used for virtually the entire season and still manage to win 22 games.
"Yeah, I believe we've flown under the radar a little bit," Alex Ruoff said. "It's probably because we've beaten the teams we're supposed to beat and move toward up a little short against the ones we needed to beat."
In other words WVU just hasn't been sexy enough. No drama, no intrigue, just a solid team plodding along and getting better as the season belongs.
And if that doesn't send shivers down the collective spine of college basketball, it hasn't been paying attention recently. Kevin Pittsnogle means anything to you? How about Joe Alexander? No lone knew who either of those guys were and then along came March and one unexpected run to the Elite Eight in 2005 and any more dash to the Sweet 16 last year. Pittsnogle became a household name (and really -- chew on that concept for a minute) and Alexander an early entry to the NBA Draft.
This is WVU's MO. The Mountaineers have Division I basketball right where they want it. Lull teams to sleep in the regular season and then pounce come March.
Ask Pitt. The Panthers dusted the Mountaineers twice in the regular season, winning in Morgantown by 12 and at home by 11.
That was February.
In March, West Virginia is 1-0 against its backyard rival.
"They're really good," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
Dixon's team is, too, which is what makes this loss so confounding. The Panthers lost DeJuan Blair to foul trouble early in the first half but managed to stay nearly even until the break, trailing by just two at the half.
But then the Mountaineers came out in a 1-3-1 in the second half, a little wrinkle Bob Huggins threw at his team three weeks ago and the Panthers caved. Believing his players just weren't big enough or physical enough to match up with the Panthers, especially down low where Blair lives; he figured the 1-3-1 would be the equalizer.
Of course he was right. Huggins is a masterful coach, his sometimes gruff personality overshadowing the value of his basketball mind.
Pitt missed all six 3-pointers it attempted in the second half, turned the ball over 13 times and most surprising of all the team that leads the country in rebound margin (at 10.4 more per game) got outboarded, 33-27.
Away of sorts on offense, the Panthers also become lackluster on defense. Devin Ebanks (20), Ruoff (18) and De'Sean Butler (16) all hit double figures.
"Man the thing I will miss most when I leave now are the late night film sessions by (Huggins)," Ruoff said. "He just knows so a lot about the game. You automatically become a better player."
Huggins has remade this team from the Beilein system masters into players. He joked that he doesn't have the rules that Beilein had since he doesn't know them. Truth is Huggins isn't a rules guy. He wants guys who play with the abandon that only confidence can bring.
It took a while to find it with this group. The Mountaineers lost Joe Mazzulla seven games in to a shoulder injury, forcing Ruoff and Butler out of position and into the point guard duties. Neither shirked from the additional duties nor did they shrink in the face of Huggins' sometimes withering criticism and demands. Instead they embraced it.
"The one thing I've really stressed in the two years that I've been here is learn how to play the game," Huggins said. "I'm not big on run here, run there and have a whole bunch of things that are concrete. I wanted them to learn. I wanted them to learn how to play basketball."
Clearly the Mountaineers have and if history is any indicator, the rest of college basketball ought to take note.