- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 13, 2010

NEW YORK | Now that West Virginia is in the Big East tournament final, coach Bob Huggins and his Mountaineers have a large problem on their hands.

His name is Greg Monroe.

The 6-foot-11 center with the uncommon all-around game has dominated at Madison Square Garden, leading No. 22 Georgetown to three impressive wins and a matchup with No. 7 West Virginia for the championship Saturday night.

“He passes the ball, he finds open people, he can lay it down, he can score in the post,” Huggins said. “Quite frankly, people with size bother us, because we’re not that big.”

Monroe had 23 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists as the eighth-seeded Hoyas (23-9) overpowered an undersized Marquette team Friday night, pulling away for an 80-57 semifinal victory.

Flashing his versatility, the sophomore from New Orleans with the smooth, left-handed shot is averaging 18 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game during the tournament.

“I would say that when he first got here, we were amazed at what he could do. Especially the way he passes,” said Georgetown guard Chris Wright, who scored 27 points against top-seeded Syracuse in the quarterfinals. “He sees the court very well. I mean, it’s nothing new. We all know Greg is a phenomenal player. It’s nothing that we — it’s not like he just started doing this in the Big East tournament. So we know he’s a great player.”

West Virginia (26-6) has its own star in Da’Sean Butler, who is having a big tournament as well. The senior forward scored 24 points Friday night in a 53-51 victory over pesky Notre Dame that ended a season-best six-game winning streak for the Irish.

That exquisite performance came about 24 hours after Butler banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer from the top of the key to give the Mountaineers a 54-51 win over Cincinnati in the quarterfinals.

West Virginia has won five straight and seven of eight. In a tournament full of surprises, the Mountaineers became the first No. 3 seed to reach the Big East title game since St. John’s in 2000.

Now, Butler thinks a conference championship could earn his squad a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

“I think it’s possible. I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t,” he said. “All the other teams fell out. We take care of business and win this game tomorrow, I don’t see why we can’t be a No. 1 seed at all.”

In the championship game for the third time in four years, Georgetown is looking to extend its record to eight Big East tournament titles.

The Mountaineers are in the final for the second time, following a 68-59 loss to Syracuse in 2005.

“We can’t blow this opportunity,” Butler said. “I’m looking forward to this game tomorrow really bad. It’s just an honor to be in this game.”

Playing at home, West Virginia beat Georgetown 81-68 on March 1 in the teams’ only meeting this season. Monroe had 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

“They’re really good. Extremely well coached,” Huggins said. “Monroe is terrific. We jumped on them pretty good in Morgantown early and then they came out the second half and played extremely well against us. And Monroe was a large part of that. It’s the Big East, you know? I’m not trying to be redundant. You look around the league and who do you play that doesn’t have good players?”

The Hoyas were missing leading scorer Austin Freeman when they lost at West Virginia. He was diagnosed with diabetes that night.

Freeman is back in the lineup and said he feels good.

“These three days have been great,” he said. “Nothing is wrong with me right now. I’m happy right now. We’re winning, so it makes it a little bit better, too. I’m good.”

And so is Monroe.

“I think he’s an early-entry pro,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “I thought he turned over his right shoulder every single time tonight. He used his left hand every single time tonight. We didn’t play to the scouting report. And we looked really, really bad. And he looked really, really good.”

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