Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers weren’t supposed to advance to the Elite 8 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. With that said, the No. 4 seed had more than a fighting chance to upend No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Thursday, as the underdogs had the ball in a three-point game with less than one minute remaining on the clock.
From there, things went about as poorly as anyone could have predicted.
Instead of playing for a quick and efficient two-point attempt given that more than 30 seconds remained on the clock, West Virginia appeared adamant to only launch shots from beyond the three-point arc. In the interest of fairness, the Mountaineers did get two attempts off during the wild final possession, but none of them were particularly credible and the way in which West Virginia went about their offensive approach was simply mind-boggling.
Throughout the exchange, West Virginia’s Devon Carter was clearly the primary option and he played it as if he was the only player on the floor that was allowed to shoot. Carter took an ill-advised three with approximately 22 seconds remaining that didn’t come close to falling but, with haste, the Mountaineers grabbed the rebound and flipped the ball back to their fearless offensive leader.
Carter then forced a cleaner look that drew rim before falling to the floor, setting the stage for Nathan Adrian to chase down a long rebound and… hand the ball back to Carter. From there, the veteran guard tried to face the Gonzaga defense on his own until he thought better of it with less than one second remaining, but his pass to a teammate was (far) too late and the top-seeded Bulldogs escaped.
In the end, this was something of a fitting end to an extremely sloppy and foul-happy basketball game. Still, it could have transpired in much different fashion for West Virginia had the team simply embraced a coherent plan.