NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete West Virginia Tournament Primer

Despite losing key players from last season's Final Four team, a short-handed West Virginia team has overachieved this season to the tune of 11 Big East wins, good enough for a sixth place finish. The Mountaineers end the season as one of the hottest teams in the Big East, winning their last three regular-season games, and four out of their last five. Coach Bob Huggins may drink for free for life in the Mountain State because of last season's postseason run, but the coaching job he's done this season has arguably been better. Using trademark defense and rebounding, Huggins has his undersized Mountaineer squad ready to be a tough out for anyone this March.

Record: 20-10 overall as of March 9, 11-7 in Big East

RPI: 21

Key Wins:

Purdue, 68-64, Jan. 16 at home. The Mountaineers used gritty defense and clutch shooting to best the Boilermakers, then ranked in the top five. John Flowers shut down E'Twaun Moore, and Purdue never found its offensive rhythm before letting the game slip away late.

Notre Dame, 72-58, Feb 19 at home. Hot shooting helped the Mountaineers coast to an easy win over the Fighting Irish. Truck Bryant broke out of a months-long shooting slump by hitting four threes and led all scorers with 24 points.

Key Losses:

Marshall 75-71, Jan. 19, Charleston WV. This in-state rivalry game played in the state capital is often a trap game for the Mountaineers. In the middle of their Big East conference slate, the Mountaineers suffered a letdown during a foul-filled game which saw nine different players pick up four or more fouls.

Player to Watch: Senior point guard Joe Mazzulla lifted the Mountaineers to victory last season against a Kentucky squad that sent six players to the NBA. As a sophmore, he manhandled the Duke Blue Devils out of the tournament. Mazzulla's stats may not wow anyone, but he's the consummate big-game player, and as he goes, go the Mountaineers. Scoring doesn't come easy for the gold and blue, so Mazzulla's steady hand running the offense is often the difference between victory and defeat. If Mazzulla can keep his turnovers to a minimum and get good looks for his big men, the Mountaineers should go far.

-- by Aaron Hawley of SB Nation Pittsburgh

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the West Virginia Mountaineers, please visit The Smoking Musket and SB Nation Pittsburgh.

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