In the hours and minutes before No. 4 West Virginia squared off against No. 5 Notre Dame in the Round of 32 on Saturday, Bob Huggins knew that his Mountaineers were going to play well.
“Yeah, I thought they were really focused and ready to go,” Huggins said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But honestly, we go 8-for-17 (from the foul line) against Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship. You’re not going to win doing that. We didn’t shoot it very well. We’ve had games we didn’t shoot it very well, but by and large, we haven’t had a whole lot of games where we came out really flat and didn’t play.”
The Mountaineers certainly didn’t come out flat Saturday. They led Notre Dame 10-0 in the opening minutes, shot 21-of-26 (80.8 percent) from the foul line and won, 83-71.
West Virginia (28-8) will play No. 1 Gonzaga (34-1) in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at 7:39 p.m. ET.
The Zags will have had five days to prepare for West Virginia’s press, but they’d probably like five more.
“It’s hard to simulate,” Huggins said. “(Mark) Few will do a great job. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s done a phenomenal job there. But it’s hard to simulate. It’s hard to simulate what we do. It’s hard to simulate our foot speed, hopefully our ball pressure. We don’t do it the same way all the time. We kind of try to adjust to what the strengths and weaknesses of what other people have and do. Hopefully they don’t adjust very well.”
Huggins, who won his 800th career game in December, is seeking his first Elite Eight – and Final Four – since 2010. That would make for quite a year.
The 63-year-old Huggins, though, isn’t focused on legacy or career accomplishments. He’s focused on beating Gonzaga.
“I’ve got so much respect for what Few has done (at) Gonzaga,” Huggins said. “We’re concentrating on trying to beat Gonzaga, and hopefully if we can get that done, we’ll worry about the next one.”
If victorious, West Virginia would face the winner of No. 2 Arizona versus No. 11 Xavier in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
Whatever happens, Huggins, who had a health scare in December – he dropped to his knees during a game against Texas, this after his defibrillator malfunctioned – insists he’s having fun.
“Yeah, yeah, these guys have a tendency to keep you young,” Huggins said. “They drive me crazy at times, but I can’t think of many teams that haven’t. But they play. All that you can ask is that they do their best, and our guys generally do their best every day.”