And that didn’t even come with the Mountaineers, as senior forward Gabe Osabuohien saw time on the floor during his stint with Arkansas during the 2018 edition of the dance. He didn’t record any statistics.
But it’s not like it would matter if the team were full of experience because this year presents a very different atmosphere when it comes to the preparation as well as the games themselves.
All 68 teams will play their games in the state of Indiana in a bubble type situation similar to what the NBA was able to pull-off last season. West Virginia, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region, will square off against No. 14 Morehead State inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Tipoff is set for 9:50 p.m.
The Mountaineers took off for Indiana March 15 and for the first day and a half were basically limited to their own rooms as they proceeded through COVID-19 testing and other measures.
That meant the players got time to themselves in order to either watch film, academic work, read or play video games as they were essentially stuck in their hotel rooms.
“There’s not much you can do other than watch games, watch film,” sophomore Deuce McBride said. “Last night watched Damian Lillard put up 50 against the Pelicans in that comeback win. There’s not much you can do but just continue to watch basketball.”
But after clearing protocols were able to get in a practice late Tuesday night which could be especially beneficial given the late tipoff for the first-round matchup Friday.
That has helped restore a sense of normalcy to the event, head coach Bob Huggins said.
“The hardest was yesterday when you had to stay in your own room, and you couldn’t fraternize with any of your own teammates. Going to practice last night really helped,” Huggins said. “Getting guys together and now that they’re allowed to be around each other a little bit more it’s been fine.”
For McBride it’s a dream come true to be able to compete in the tournament, even in a modified form that is much different than what he could have expected.
“I’m just happy to be here. Obviously not being able to play in the tournament last year I think hurt everybody being involved and the people here are doing a really great job,” he said. “I’m sure it’s tough to get 68 teams taken care of with facilities and things but I’m just happy to be here.”
The plan is for West Virginia to practice inside Lucas Oil Stadium and get a shootaround in before tipoff Friday and the Mountaineers will have a while to wait before the 9:50 p.m. start time Friday.
It’s making the best of a difficult situation, but it certainly beats the alternative that coaches and players had to deal with last season with the cancellation of the event.
It’s a different experience, but one West Virginia is ready to compete in this week.
“They’re trying the best they possibly can. Letting teams get out and practice was a big step. Letting guys get back to a little bit of normalcy,” Huggins said.