West Liberty Basketball Striving for National Success
A year after falling just one win short of a Division 2 National Championship, West Liberty Basketball is once again one of the best teams in the country.
The most dominant basketball team in the state doesn’t reside in Morgantown or Huntington. The West Liberty Hilltoppers are ranked number 1 in the Division 2 coaches’ poll and sit at 9-0. Their next game doesn’t come till January 3rd against Concord. West Liberty advanced to the Division 2 title game last year before falling to the University of Central Missouri. Head coach and West Virginia native Jim Crutchfield said their success is predicated on a unique playing style that encourages high scoring affairs.
“You know I’ve been at this a while and recruited for a long time and I’ve never had a kid sit in front of me and say coach I’m more of a slow-down type of guy, they all think they want to play in this system, but it’s not easy, if it were easy everyone would be doing it.,” Crutchfield said.
West Liberty receives more attention on a national scale than they do in the state, but Crutchfield said he’d rather receive little hype or attention from either. He likes it better when his team can sneak up on the opponent, which he says doesn’t often happen when you’re ranked number 1 in the country.
“I’ve always felt like I personally function better as an underdog, seems to bring out the best in me and now we’re all the sudden in this position where we’re supposed to win, you’re supposed to win the league or supposed to win each game,” Crutchfield said.
Crutchfield is 278-49 in 11 seasons in West Liberty. He says they try not to think about what a national championship could mean for the program, state or the university.
“It does mean something, but that kind of pressure we don’t throw out there to our team or our players that we have to win cause it would be great for everybody, we try to keep them grounded for the next game,” Crutchfield said.
Despite their dominance the Hilltoppers came up short in last years Mid East Conference Tournament to the University of Charleston.