Teams: Syracuse Orange (17-9, 9-7) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (19-9, 11-6)
Day & Time: Sunday, March 21, 5:15 pm ET
Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Line: West Virginia -3.5
TV/Streaming: CBS, NCAA.com
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3
West Virginia Blog: The Smoking Musket
Rivalry: 34-16, Syracuse
Current Streak: 5, Syracuse
First Meeting: The Orange took a trip to Morgantown on January 9, 1917, for the first ever meeting between Syracuse and West Virginia. The Orange grabbed the road win 32-21, with Charley Dolley having a breakout game scoring 12 points. Syracuse would finish with a 13-3 record that season.
Last Meeting: It was a close game between No. 3 Syracuse and West Virginia on January 28, 2012 at the Carrier Dome. The score was tied nine times and the lead changed five times. Ultimately, Brandon Triche hit two free throws with 1:28 left in the game and West Virginia missed a three at the buzzer to give Syracuse the 63-61 victory. The Orange improved to 22-1 with the win, and would go on to the Elite Eight later that year.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (45th year, 1,082-408) | West Virginia - Bob Huggins (14th season, 310-170)
Coach Bio: A native of Morgantown, West Virginia, Huggins started his collegiate basketball career at Ohio. He transferred after his freshman season to West Virginia, where he scored 800 points for the Mountaineers in three seasons. Huggins started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at West Virginia before taking an assistant job at Ohio State. His first head coaching job was at then-NAIA school Walsh University where he stayed for three years before returning to Division I as an assistant at UCF.
Huggins’s first Division I head coaching job was with Akron, where he compiled a 97-46 record with the Zips, including a NCAA tournament appearance. He then took the Cincinnati head coaching job in 1989 and spent the next 16 seasons leading the Bearcats. After two straight NIT appearances to start his tenure, Huggins led Cincinnati to 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances, including a Final Four run and two Elite Eight showings. The Bearcats won at least 20 games in 14 of his seasons.
After a brief stop as Kansas State’s head coach during the 2006-07 season, Huggins became the head coach of his alma mater, West Virginia, in 2007. The Mountaineers have made the Final Four once under Huggins during the 2010 tournament and have made the NCAA tournament 10 times during his tenure. West Virginia has achieved nine 20-plus win seasons with Huggins at the helm.
Last Year: West Virginia needed a rebound year after going 15-21 during the 2018-19 season. The Mountaineers responded by going 21-10 with three wins over ranked opponents, including No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Baylor. West Virginia would get the six-seed in the Big 12 tournament but wouldn’t play a game due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Mountaineers finished the season ranked 24th in the polls.
Last Game: A clinical offensive showcase was on display for the Mountaineers as they played Morehead State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. West Virginia shot 50.8% from the floor and 50% from three to secure an 84-67 win. Not to be outdone by Buddy Boeheim’s spectacular night, Miles McBride scored 30 points for the Mountaineers. The victory gave Huggins his 900th career win as a head coach.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: While McBride is West Virginia’s leading scorer, Derek Culver might give the Orange more headaches. He sits behind McBride as WVU’s second-leading scorer with 14.5 points per game. More worryingly for Syracuse, he grabs a colossal 9.7 rebounds per game, including 2.9 offensive rebounds per game.
If Syracuse Wins: America weeps at the power of a double-digit seeded Syracuse team.
If Syracuse Loses: America breathes a sigh of relief due to the fact that they don’t have to learn the 2-3 zone.
Fun Fact: Jim Boeheim is 5-1 all time against Huggins, with the WVU head man only winning the first matchup between the two coaches. The two have met once in postseason play during the Big East tournament semifinals in 2009, the day after Syracuse’s six overtime game against UConn. The Orange won 74-69 to advance to the finals before losing to Louisville.