By Anthony Rhoads
Late last Thursday night, I was literally jumping for joy.
When Tyrone Salley made a dunk with 2.4 seconds remaining to lift West Virginia to a 63-61 victory over Creighton in the first round of the NCAA tournament, I was extremely happy to say the least.
It was a textbook play. Salley blocked a 3-point shot and teammate Kevin Pittsnogle came up with the ball. Pittsnogle passed to Mike Gansey at midcourt and Gansey passed to a wide-open Salley for the easy dunk to put the Mountaineers in the second round.
As elated as I was after the victory, I did not believe West Virginia could beat Wake Forest in the second round. On my main ESPN bracket, I had Wake Forest going to the Final 4 and even though I have Illinois picked to the national title, I wouldn't have been surprised if Wake Forest had won it all.
After Wake Forest took a double-digit lead in the first half, I thought it was all over for the Mountaineers. Wake's defense played tough and West Virginia struggled from the perimeter, which had been one of team's main strengths all year long.
West Virginia started to chip away at the lead in the second round and I thought they would be things respectable. Really, all I wanted was for West Virginia to make it a good game and to at least not get embarrassed. But when the leading started to evaporate to six and then four points, I was thinking West Virginia might just win the thing. West Virginia remained patient, didn't panic and the shots started to fall.
The game was tied at the end of the regulation and then the Mountaineers outlasted the Demon Deacons 111-105 in two overtimes to earn a trip to the Sweet 16. Even if West Virginia had lost, that was truly a great college basketball game. Both teams played their hearts out and they both left it all on the floor; that's what it should be all about.
At the end of the game, I was ecstatic but didn't do any jumping that night. I was almost too shocked to react at all.
I actually had to sit down as I was nearly in tears that West Virginia had actually beaten Wake Forest.
Now the Mountaineers face Texas Tech Thursday in the Sweet 16. It will be another tough game but it's definitely winnable. After beating Wake Forest, anything is possible for the Mountaineers; they might fool around and make it to the championship.
Gansey comes through for WVU: While Wake Forest had first team all-American Chris Paul and honorable mention all-American Eric Williams, West Virginia had Mike Gansey. Gansey scored just 10 points in regulation but absolutely went crazy in overtime with 19 in the extra periods. Going into the tournament, it would be safe to say most folks didn't know who he was but now they have to sit up and take notice. Gansey can really play.
How about the Patriot League: Other than West Virginia making it to the Sweet 16, one of the coolest things about this year's tournament is Bucknell. Bucknell became the first Patriot League to win an NCAA tournament game in an upset over Kansas.
One of the great things about the Patriot League is that those kids are true student-athletes. I love college basketball but it's a farce to categorize some of the guys who play big-time college basketball as student-athletes.
It's just really neat to see a team that truly stresses academics to have some success on the court as well.
Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . He is also a proud native of West Virginia.