TAMPA, Fla. - For all that Bob Huggins has accomplished over his three decades as a college basketball coach - the 690 wins, the 10 conference tournament championships, the national rankings, the Final Fours - the one thing that is missing stands out like a sore thumb.
Sure, there are a ton of coaches - what, 99 percent of them? - who have never won a national championship. That Huggins is not among the one percent who has seems, well, almost an anomaly, an accident of fate.
Still, far from obsessing about it - "Do I act like [I obsess]?'' he laughed Tuesday - Huggins is realistic and pragmatic.
"You know, you learn that all you can do is the best you can,'' the West Virginia coach said. "There are a lot of things that happen that are kind of out of your control. I worry about the things that I have a chance to control. I don't worry about that other stuff.''
The topic seems pertinent today because beginning Thursday here in Tampa, Huggins begins his quest once more. Officially it is his 19th opportunity, which is the number of NCAA tournaments in which his teams at Akron, Cincinnati and West Virginia have played. Truthfully it is his 29th because in the 10 seasons his teams didn't reach this point they at least pointed to it.
His team's chances? Well, let's be honest here. They just aren't very good. A year ago Huggins had a top-10 team that came tantalizingly close by making the Final Four before losing to eventual champion Duke, and this year's group is essentially that one minus perhaps its three best players - Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Wellington Smith.
That's not exactly a recipe for success.
Then again, when the Mountaineers begin play at the St. Pete Times Forum against Clemson, who is to say the same kind of fate that has so often worked against Huggins won't work for him this time around?
"We have had - I have had - some opportunities and we've had some crazy things happen,'' Huggins said. "Kenyon [Martin] getting hurt, [Allen] Jackson getting hurt [both when he was at Cincinnati]. I know in 2000 we had a legitimate shot until Kenyon went down.''
Indeed, in 2000 the Bearcats were ranked No. 1 in the country when Martin, perhaps the best player in the country on the best team in the country, broke his leg in the Conference USA tournament. Three years later Huggins' team lost to North Carolina in a regional final playing without Jackson, who hurt his knee in the first round.
Cincinnati lost another regional final to Mississippi State in 1996 when point guard Keith LeGree had to play with a stress fracture in his foot.