MORGANTOWN - For a team as young as the one Bob Huggins is coaching this season, almost every experience - every arena, every opponent - is a new one. Sometimes those experiences are a bit overwhelming, too.
The one the Mountaineers are in for tonight, though, is special. And that's not just for the freshmen or even restricted to the players.
"I remember when I was at Cincinnati I'd talk to Oscar [Robertson] and he'd talk about how special it was to play at Madison Square Garden,'' Huggins said Tuesday. "It's the mecca of basketball. It never gets old playing there.''
Beginning a stretch of three games in six days, West Virginia (15-5, 5-2 Big East) goes to the Garden tonight for a 7 p.m. game with St. John's (8-11, 2-6). The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
Three days later the Mountaineers go back to New York to face No. 3 Syracuse on Saturday afternoon and then return home for a Big Monday game against Pitt.
With Syracuse and its 20-1 record looming beyond a game against the only Big East team with a losing overall record, it might be easy for a team with five freshmen among its top eight players to look past tonight's game with the Red Storm.
Huggins casts aside that notion if for no other reason than the venue.
"Like I told them, they're getting ready to go to the most famous arena in the world,'' Huggins said. "Why would you not be excited about that?''
The game is also a chance to further build on just what Huggins talked about Saturday after his team beat Cincinnati in overtime - experience. At the time he talked about how WVU's difficult non-conference schedule had prepared the Mountaineers for games like that. Playing at the Garden is a lot like those preseason games, too, in that it should prepare West Virginia for the Big East tournament, which will be played at MSG beginning March 6.
"It will help us if we win,'' Huggins said.