WVU Men’s Basketball Headed To Jimmy V Classic, May Also Visit Tennessee
A couple more pieces of the Mountaineer men’s 2018-19 basketball schedule are coming together.
What had long been speculated became official, as it was announced that West Virginia will participate in the 2018 Jimmy V Classic, which will be held Tuesday, Dec. 4 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. WVU will face Florida in the second half a doubleheader that evening. Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma will be the first half of the 24th annual Jimmy V Classic. That game will tipoff at 7 p.m. The Mountaineers and Gators will follow in the 9 p.m. range. Both games will be televised by ESPN.
“We are honored to play in such a special event for a great cause, and I know our fans will be excited to see us play on ESPN and in Madison Square Garden,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins, who has participated in the Jimmy V Class three other times, once while at Cincinnati and twice with the Mountaineers. “The Jimmy V Classic is one of the premier events during the college basketball season, and the Jimmy V Classic during V Week brings awareness to such a terrible disease because every one of us has been affected by cancer in one way or another. When we lost our mother in 2003, my family and I started the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund, and we have raised more than $2 million in cancer research. We all need to join the fight to end this deadly disease.”
This will be the fourth time Florida has participated in the Classic, having previously played in the event in 1999, 2013 and 2016. West Virginia will be making its third appearance (2008, 2015) and Notre Dame is making its second (2007). Oklahoma will be playing in its first Jimmy V Classic this December. The schools have combined for 13 Final Four appearances, and they have all advanced to the Elite Eight or further in the NCAA Tournament over the last decade.
West Virginia and Florida have met eight times previously with the most recent being an 88-71 Gator victory in Gainesville as part of the 2016 Big 12/SEC Challenge. UF holds a 5-3 advantage in the series with WVU, including winning three of the last four. The Mountaineers’ only win over Florida in the past 47 years came in a 68-66 upset of the No. 8 Gators at the Charleston Civic Center early in the 2002-03 season, which was John Beilein first as West Virginia’s head coach.
Florida is coming off a 21-13 season in which it advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s second round. Two of Florida’s top three scorers from that team – Egor Koulechuv and Chris Chiozza – have graduated, but three other starters are eligible to return for what will be their senior seasons. That likely includes 6-foot-6 forward Jalen Hudson, who led UF in scoring last year with an average of 15.5 points a game. A former transfer from Virginia Tech, Hudson did declare for the NBA draft this spring, but he has not hired an agent and most expect he’ll be back in Gainesville next season.
“The Jimmy V Classic is a special event, and we’re really excited for Florida to be part of it again,” said UF head coach Mike White, who holds a 69-36 record in his three previous seasons leading the Gators. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to play a high-level opponent in one of the best basketball venues in the world. Beyond the court, the work that the V Foundation does to fund cancer research is so important, and we’re glad the Gators can have a role in helping support that mission.”
There will be a couple familiar faces on the Florida bench when it matchups up with the Mountaineers in Madison Square Garden. Former WVU point guard Darris Nichols has been an assistant coach for White since 2014, dating back to their days together at Louisiana Tech. And Chase Johnson, a 6-foot-9 forward for UF, is a native of Ripley, W.Va. Johnson played in four games for the Gators this past season before a concussion forced him to miss the rest of the 2017-18 campaign. He took a medical redshirt and will return this coming season as a redshirt freshman.
In addition to facing Florida in December, WVU may also be heading to Tennessee as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. On a stop for the Big Orange Caravan recently, UT men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes revealed that the Volunteers will host one of two teams for the Big 12/SEC Challenge this season – either West Virginia or Kansas. This year’s Challenge is slated for Saturday, Jan. 26. The Mountaineers entertained Kentucky this past season as part of that event.