Did you see the man, dressed in black, that led the West Virginia Mountaineers in dismantling the Kansas Jayhawks Tuesday evening in Morgantown, West Virginia? The slick-backed hair, the scowl on his face, that “mafia-man” look at courtside? To a lot of college basketball fans he’s Darth Vader. To Mountaineer fans he’s affectionately known simply as “Huggy Bear”.
Bob Huggins’ basketball team brought down the top-ranked Jayhawks 74-63. We shouldn’t be surprised. That is the third straight win for West Virginia over Kansas in Morgantown. Bobby Huggins and his gang are tough to handle in the mountains! Scan the record books and you will see that Bill Self-coached teams almost NEVER lose to anybody three straight times, no matter where the game is played.
Just who is this Bob Huggins, this “Huggy Bear”? Respected by coaches, reviled by opposing fans and adored by West Virginians. He may look, and act, like a gangster but he’s not. He’s a shrewd recruiter and a great motivator. His teams play with a chip on their shoulder so big that it is surprising that they can jump off of the floor for a rebound but, boy do they jump! He has convinced his players that they don’t get any respect in this new-for them-Big 12 Conference.
Huggins was a three-year All-Ohio selection and the 1972 Ohio Player of the Year in high school while playing for his father. He was a three-year letterman for West Virginia. More importantly, he was a two-time Academic All-American and graduated from West Virginia magna cum laude and also received his master’s in health administration. A dummy, he isn’t.
Sunflower state fans will remember his one year at Kansas State. In 2006-07, he led the Wildcats to 23 wins, the most wins in 19 years. He’s been a huge winner at every stop. Coming into this season Huggins has 765 collegiate victories. A loser, he isn’t.
So Kansas and Kansas State fans, the next time West Virginia is the opponent, go ahead and boo the grizzly bear prowling in front of the bench, growling at the referees. Boo the villain, the Darth Vader of college basketball. The man in black. In West Virginia they love their “Huggy Bear”!
If you are looking for a warm place with great food and a lot of excitement you can pass over all of those winter resort destinations and head for St.John. The St.John Mid-Winter Basketball Classic tips off next week and fireworks are guaranteed!
How’s this for your top three seeds? Unbeaten Central Plains, one-loss St.John and one-loss Larned. Toss in a rebounding 5-3 Pratt team and you’ve got the recipe for some great basketball.
Central Plains is coming off of a ten-point win over Dodge City on Tuesday evening and St. John and Larned had easy wins, moving to 8-1 on the season. Ness City, Nickerson and Macksville complete the bracket. Because there’s only seven teams, Central Plains will receive a first-round bye.
The St. John Lions Club puts on a terrific tournament and this year they’ve got an outstanding field. I’ll meet you at the food bar. The homemade pie is terrific!
Charles Tabler is a contributing writer from Larned.