March Madness Memories

March Madness Memories

March Madness Memories

As Championship Week begins and Selection Sunday and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament approaches, I can’t help but think back to my time as a WVU Cheerleader during postseason action in March. In 2006, being only a freshman, I didn’t have the opportunity to travel to any of the postseason tournaments, but I definitely remember them.   At our first game in the Big East tournament, we suffered an always heartbreaking loss to the University of Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals ending our run at the Big East Title. We went on to be the #6 seed in the Atlanta Regional and defeated Southern Illinois and Northwestern State to advance to the Sweet Sixteen to face the #2 seed Texas Longhorns.   I remember a group of my friends cramming into a small dorm room in Summit Hall to watch the game.  We were at the edge of our seats as we watched Kevin Pittsnogle sink a 3-point shot to tie the game 71-71 with six seconds left in regulation but the Longhorns made an impressive 3-point shot at the buzzer to win the game 74-71. The following season was thought to be a rebuilding year after losing Mountaineer favorites like Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey, to name a few.  However, we managed to pull off a 19-6 regular season record.   After losing in the second round of the Big East Tournament in double overtime to Louisville, I remember the disappointment when the Mountaineers failed to be selected for the NCAA Tournament and we would settle for the #1 seed in the NIT.  After defeating Delaware State, UMass and NC State, we would be making the trip to NYC for the NIT semifinals, and I was going!  To say I was excited to cheer on the Mountaineers at Madison Square Garden would be an understatement.  Darris Nichols kept the Mountaineers alive as he hit a game winning 3 point shot against Mississippi State which would lead us to the NIT Championship game vs Clemson.    We went on to beat Clemson 78-72 and were crowned the NIT Champions for the second time in school history. As the 2007-2008 season rolled around, I was excited to see what was in store for the Mountaineers as Coach Bob Huggins took over as head coach.   The regular season came and went and we were back at Madison Square Garden for the always exciting Big East Tourney.  We posted a 58-53 victory over Providence and in the second round upset #15 ranked Connecticut Huskies 78-72. Unfortunately, we suffered a big loss to the Georgetown Hoyas in the semifinals and we made the long drive back to Morgantown.  We were selected as the #7 seed in the West Region in the NCAA Tournament and in the first game defeated the Arizona Wildcats.  The second round game is one that I will never forget.  We were playing the #2 seed, the Duke Blue Devils.  The Verizon Center in Washington, DC was packed with Mountaineer and Blue Devil fans and I was on the sidelines watching one of the most exciting games I have ever been a part of as the Mountaineers upset the Blue Devils 73-67.  This advanced the Mountaineers to the Sweet Sixteen in Phoenix, AZ against #3 seed Xavier.  This game ended our postseason play as we were defeated in OT 79-75. The 2008-2009 season would be the last time I cheered on the Mountaineers from the sidelines.  The regular season seemed to fly by and before I knew it we were traveling to NYC for the tournament.  Our first game would be against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.  We defeated the Irish and then went on to beat our rival, the Pittsburgh Panthers, in a huge upset.  We ended up losing in OT in the semi-finals to Syracuse.   Following the tournament we were selected the #6 seed in the Midwest Region and made the trip to Minneapolis, MN to take on the Dayton Flyers.  We were upset by the flyers in crushing 68-60 season ending loss. Since then, the Mountaineers have gone on to win their first Big East Championship, have advanced to the Final Four, have joined the Big 12 Conference and Coach Huggins has been named the Big 12 Coach of the Year. The #18 Mountaineers recently finished their regular season with a win over Oklahoma State this past Saturday.  They will now face Baylor in the Big 12 Men’s Championship quarterfinal this Thursday at 12:30 p.m.  I am looking forward to what I know will be an exciting March as we enter the NCAA Men’s Basketball postseason. Happy March Madness and Let’s Go Mountaineers!