1.17.2011

Mountaineer Monday

The Mountaineer Men's Basketball team defeated the 8th ranked Purdue Boilermakers 68 - 64 yesterday in Morgantown.  I know because I was there.  For the first time ever I have basketball season tickets and I've enjoyed going to the games, but today was the first day that there was real energy in the Coliseum.  Today was the first day there was a real sense of 'this is important.'  Sure it was a non-conference game, but with Purdue ranked at #8, the outcome could greatly impact NCAA Tournament seeding.

It was a back forth game from early on, but as the final minute ran off the clock it seemed that WVU might actually pull of the upset.  So much so, apparently, that the guy in front of me left, as in left the Coliseum, with 29 seconds to go (with WVU only up by 3 and Purdue with the ball - I KNOW!).  And in this final minute the students began making their way to the edge of the floor, intent upon rushing it when the clock read 0:00.

As I sat in stood at my safe-from-being-trampled seat, I sent a tweet saying that the students were preparing to rush the court.  And as I sang 'Country Roads' with 14,000 of my closest friends while the students celebrated with the team below, I scrolled through the tweets and saw that some people (both WVU fans and not) were questioning why WVU's students rushed the court.  Michelle and I even had a twitversation (that would be a conversation on twitter) about it.  Michelle's a Kansas Jayhawk fan and said she's never seen it done there.  That it is discouraged by the University.  Knowing Kansas's rich basketball history, a piece of me felt bad for her as it was quite a neat thing to watch.  But then again, maybe it's just because winning the big game is what's expected at Kansas?  Hmmm, more on this thought in a minute.

So, were the WVU students overreacting to today's victory?  Should they have stayed in their seats and celebrated with more restraint?  (Side note:  If it had been a football game, they would've had no choice, rushing the football field is strictly forbidden at WVU.  The why for that is another day's tale.)  My take?  No.  I think it was great sight to see and a well-deserved celebration for the team.

Those that disagree with me said that for a team that just went to the Final Four, we should've known the victory over Purdue wasn't that big of a deal.  That we are a successful team and need to start acting like it.  More like the fans at Kansas do perhaps.

I disagree.  The team that played yesterday isn't the team that played in the Final Four last year.  (And they aren't the team that got knocked out in the first round 2 years ago either.)  They are a team struggling for their identity; that some say won't even get into the Big Dance.  They are a team that needed a big win, at home, over a big opponent.  Was beating Purdue the same as beating Duke, Kentucky, Pitt, Kansas?  No.  Was it the big win that this team needed this year?  Yes.

As to our fans (students specifically?) needing to act like we've been here before.  Well, we really haven't.  Yes, we've won some big games in recent years, but as a WVU fan, sadly, you get used to winning the games you should lose and losing the games you should win.  And the really big games?  They always seem to get away from us.  Yes, there are exceptions - WVU's Elite Eight victory last year; the football team's Fiesta Bowl victory 3 years ago, but around here, they are exceptions.  Yes, we were 3 point favorites over Purdue today; but actually winning the game is much bigger than if we'd lost.  If we'd lost, everyone would've said it's because Butler and Ebanks are gone; we are rebuilding; we knew it would be a long year.  But instead, today's victory showed us that yes, Butler and Ebanks are gone; yes, we are rebuilding; and yes, it might just be a long year.  Maybe even deep into March.

So, would Duke or Kentucky or North Carolina or Kansas have rushed the court after a victory like the Mountaineers had yesterday?  Probably not.  Were the WVU students right to do it?  Yes.  When we have a string of 3 or 4 or heck, even 2 years, of reaching the Elite 8 or even the Sweet 16; when we are playing for the Big East Championship for back to back years; when we are starting the season ranked in the top 25 then I will expect to see a different reaction to a win like today.  But a piece of me will be sad too.  I dream of the day WVU sports are consistently top tier; consistently nationally known, but the day that we forget that beating #8 Purdue was reason to rush the court is the day we've forgotten where we came from.

And for those of you Mountaineer fans who weren't there; who didn't feel the energy of the Coliseum but who want to criticize the court-rushing?  Shame on you.

4 comments:

  1. Good take. Like I said (and how I wrote today) it's something that would definitely be frowned upon. and LIke I said, I'm just another "snobby KU fan" LOL.

    Glad you enjoyed the game! And you might want to get used to winning...you do have Bob Huggins after all. :P

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  2. Rebecca, my jersey buddy, I have to respectfully disagree with you on this.

    I understand everything that you were saying about the energy in the Coliseum, this being an important game for this team and with the game being on CBS all of this is leading to the excitement of the win.

    This didn’t feel like a “rush the court” kind of game to me. WVU plays teams of this caliber (and better) every single night in the Big East. Right now in the top 10, there is #4 Syracuse, #5 Pitt, #7 Villanova, #9 Notre Dame, #10 UConn. Now I would love to see WVU win all of these games. Should they win all of these games? Maybe not this season, but if we did win against these teams at home would we rush the court after every single game? I would hope not. Really, read those names over again. The only team on that list that is “rush the court” worthy is Pitt and that is only if they remain in the top 5.

    This team is different than the one that played in the Final Four, I agree with you, but this program, is the same program that played in the Final Four last year and won a Big East Championship. If we were 3-5 years removed from a Final Four, maybe I can understand the excitement of beating the #8 team in the country, but WVU itself is just a few votes out of being in the top 25 right now. Would it been that devastating a loss had they lost to Purdue? Would it have eaten at you, like say a loss to a #5 Pitt? Probably not, so winning shouldn’t cause the opposite reaction.

    WVU is in this gray area right now as an overall athletic program. They want to be in the top #10 in football and basketball. They want to be considered an elite national program. Well part of that is acting like you are an elite national program.

    Believe me, I am emotional, I love the excitement and I was one of the people on the field carrying a goal post when we beat Miami during our Sugar Bowl run in the 1993, but this athletic program has made huge strides over the last 20 years. I haven’t forgotten where WVU game from, fighting for national respect, always being the underdog, never being competitive on a consistent basis. Things have changed at WVU, fans expect more, the fans have tasted the success that comes with being a national program in many sports, not just football and basketball. Believe it or not, your dreams of WVU being a top tier program and consistently nationally known are coming true.

    I guess my issue is not so much the act of rushing the court, but in the fans of WVU in being savvy enough to know when and when it isn’t justified.

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  3. Z - I agree, rushing the court for all of those teams would be silly; and rushing the court when playing Purdue if it had come AFTER beating one of those teams would also have been a bit silly. I guess I feel it just fit for that game, at that time.

    Things very much have changed at WVU, and with time and consistency, I think our students will reserve rushing the court for even bigger games. So, overall I agree with you, I just think for this one game, at this exact time it made sense (to me anyway).

    Michelle - loved your post. I still have to pinch myself that we actually have Bob Huggins AND that he seems to really want to stay and be here (you should see the house he just built!). The last time we had a coach with this kind of promise...well, I promised I wouldn't talk about that anymore. I have to remind myself frequently that Huggs is Huggs, not anyone else!

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  4. I have no problem with fans rushing the court after a big ballgame, in fact, I think it adds to the excitement! It also shows support for the players. I'm not sure if UT fans have rushed the floor after a big win, but I bet they have. If they haven't, it's probably because the security was so tight they couldn't get down there!

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