Bob Huggins: ‘Think Kentucky May Win NBA Eastern Conference’

The hyperbole is only getting more hyperbolic.

At first, No. 1 Kentucky could beat an NBA team. Then the Wildcats could make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

Now it seems they could make the NBA Finals.

“Well, they’ve got a Hall of Fame coach, and they’ve got great players,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think I heard (they have) 10 first-round picks. There’s not an NBA team that has 10 first-round picks on it. I mean, if you go down through every roster in the NBA, nobody has 10 first-round picks. So I think Larry Brown said they’d be runner-up in the East. I’m thinking they may win it. They’re talented.”

Seriously? Does Huggins really think that Kentucky could win the Eastern Conference?

“There’s not an NBA team that has 12 first-round picks, are there?” Huggins asked. “If you went down through the roster, you couldn’t find an NBA team that has 10 first-round picks on it.”

Huggins will find out if his Mountaineers are Finals-worthy this Thursday, as No. 5 West Virginia (25-9) plays Kentucky (36-0) in the Sweet 16.

“We just got to do what we do, and we got to try to be a thorn in their side,” Huggins said.

West Virginia beat Buffalo and Maryland to advance to the Sweet 16.

“Obviously they were excited,” Huggins said of his players after beating Maryland, 69-59, on Sunday. “They were excited to be able to continue to play. They’re a great bunch. They love to play. They love being in the gym. They love being around each other. It gives us an opportunity to get some practices in and play at least one more game and hopefully more.”

Sophomore forward Devin Williams led the way against the Terps, finishing with game-highs in scoring (16 points) and rebounding (10).

“He’s been good all year,” Huggins said. “Actually, he was our best inside player a year ago, and he’s just gotten better and better. He loves to play. He loves basketball. He’s a guy who will practice for however long we practice – it’s generally longer than probably most people go – and he’ll go in, relax a little bit in the locker room, (and he) comes back out for 45 minutes to an hour and gets shots up. So he just loves basketball. He loves being in the gym.”

After beating Maryland, some Mountaineers were playing the underdog card for their upcoming game against Kentucky, saying that no one expects them to topple the mighty Cats.

Lawrence asked Huggins how much he’ll talk about West Virginia’s underdog status before Thursday.

“Not at all,” he said. “When you have a group like we have that loves to play – I mean, they would love to play no matter who they’re playing. You don’t have to motivate them. They’re self-motivators. They like being around each other. Fortunately, I don’t have to come in every day and get them motivated. They do that themselves.”

Huggins said his team’s depth and high-pressure defense will have to come through against Kentucky.

“If it doesn’t, then it won’t be a very good game,” he said.

Huggins, who is 8-2 against John Calipari, also thinks he could beat him one-on-one.

“Well, I would need a couple weeks to get in shape,” Huggins admitted. “But I like my chances.”

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