West Virginia will be making their return to Madison Square Garden on Saturday to face the St. John’s Red Storm in the first of the Mountaineers’ tough December non-conference schedule.
There is a lot of allure around that venue. The public announcer greets fans to “The World’s Most Famous Arena” and TV spectators are welcomed into “the Mecca of basketball.” Looking back on his playing days, Bob Huggins remembers how he felt when he got the chance to play at the Garden.
“I remember as a sophomore getting ready to go play at Madison Square Garden, I was giddy. I couldn’t hardly wait to get out there and play,” he recounted. “And then, when we went in there to practice, we got there I guess a little early, and the Knicks were out there….You know, I’m sitting there, and I had to pinch myself to believe I was sitting there watching those guys.”
There has been a lot of change since that 1973 season. For one, the Knicks aren’t exactly competing for championships like they were then, and their center position, once manned by the feared Willis Reed, now belongs to Julius Randle.
Huggins admits that the venue might not have the luster it did — but it’s still the Garden.
“I don’t know that it’s what it once was, but it’s still, I mean, that’s the place,” he said. “You know, like the old song: ‘if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.'”
The Mountaineers will make it to MSG with their best record since 2015, with the aim of getting to 8-0 for the first time since 2009-2010. The Mountaineers know they have a job to do, regardless of the arena in which they play.
In fact, Huggins broke down the meaning of a victory over St. John’s quite simply.
“Well, it mean’s we’re 8-0 and we come home for two [games] before we go to Youngstown,” he said. “I think our guys have been pretty good at taking them one at a time.”
However, he says it’s still a “huge opportunity,” and his players are excited. For some of them, this won’t be their first time playing there as a Mountaineer after taking a loss to Florida at MSG a season ago.
“I hope they’re like me, they don’t even remember it,” Huggins said. “Don’t remember what happened. Just go play.”