"That first game's hard,'' Huggins said. "I don't know what it is. Guys are more relaxed, more comfortable that second game.''
OK, so back to the original point, which was that West Virginia this week is playing for one of the best four seeds in the tournament. Those would be the 5-through-8 seeds, who in the first two years under the current format are 7-1 in their Wednesday games. Those seven winners were then 5-2 against the top four seeds in the quarterfinals.
That's right, of the measly three wins in two years that the top four seeds have managed in their opening quarterfinal games, only two came against seeds five through eight. The other was WVU's win over Cincinnati last year, when the Bearcats became the first and only bottom-eight team to win a second-rounder against one of those four middle seeds.
Still think finishing in the top four is the place to be heading into the tournament?
Well, on one hand, sure. It is likely going to position a team better in the NCAA tournament mix, as well as allowing those teams the chance not to kill themselves the week before the NCAAs begin.
That is, if they can navigate the Big East tournament as West Virginia managed to do last year as a top-four seed, but has generally been a death knell to a team's league tournament chances.
"It helped us probably after that, but the first game's hard,'' Huggins said, meaning that playing and winning just three games (as opposed to four or five) gave his team confidence and kept it sharp for a run to the Final Four. "Three of the four best teams in our league lost and we very well could have if [Cincinnati's Dion Dixon] hadn't dribbled it off his foot [to give WVU the ball and set up Butler's game-winner].''
It helps, of course, if that first game played in the tournament isn't against another ranked team. That's where the middle seeds have the biggest advantage. Yes, they are just like those top four seeds in that they are facing a team that has had a game to warm up, but would you rather face a warmed-up Rutgers or Providence on Wednesday or a warmed-up Georgetown or Connecticut on Thursday?
All that having been said, of course, perhaps this is a bit of a different year. After all, there are going to NCAA tournament locks playing on Tuesday (with 11 teams in the mix, only eight will get first-round byes, so three of the four Tuesday winners could be NCAA bound), so maybe those 5-through-8 seeds aren't as comfortable as they have been the past two years.
Then again, it's tough to argue with the numbers, which say that the 5-through-8 seeds have lost once in their first-round games under the current format, and the 1-through-4 seeds have lost five times.
"Obviously, you want to finish in the top four [for so many other reasons],'' said Huggins, whose team won't finish in the top four but should wind up fifth through eighth by winning two games this week. "But as far as seeding goes, I don't know if that's the best place to be.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.