Harry Bell

Elliot Hicks

Larry L. Rowe

CHARLESTON – Less than three months ago, West Virginia University's football team stormed the Georgia Dome and picked up an impressive Sugar Bowl victory.

Now, the Mountaineer basketball team has taken up residence in the dome, hoping to earn a spot in the NCAA Elite Eight or even the Final Four.

And as it was in January, a large contingent of people in the state legal community will be there to support the Mountaineers.

"It's going to be a great game," Charleston attorney Harry Bell said of Thursday evening's matchup against Texas.

Earlier this season, the Longhorns defeated WVU 76-75. Bell has a "that was then, this is now" attitude.

"What happened last time, I'd rather have lost before than having won before," said Bell, who will be in the crowd Thursday with his wife.

Bell, who received his undergraduate and law degrees from WVU, said this Mountaineer squad, which made it to the Elite Eight last season, is a special one.

"It's a fun time," he said. "It's what college basketball is all about. It's been a great run with these guys. The least I can do is honor them by cheering them on in person.

"This is great."

Bell, a partner at Bell & Bands, said the sting of WVU's loss to intrastate rival Marshall University earlier this season even is eased a little by the postseason success. The Thundering Herd has defeated the Mountaineers two consecutive years.

I was teasing Bill Bands," Bell said of his law partner and Herd fan. "Marshall can beat us every year as long as this happens."

Elliot Hicks won't be watching Thursday's game in person, but he's still exciting about the Mountaineers' success the past two seasons.

"It will be great," said Hicks, the resident partner in the Charleston office of the Atlanta-based law firm of Hawkins & Parnell. "It's a good run. I think we're going to do OK."

Attorney Larry L. Rowe said WVU basketball Coach John Beilein has earned his respect.

"Beilien has brought me back to WVU basketball," said Rowe, who is a lifelong WVU fans. "I like him and his program. Even if they don't win.

Rowe, whose firm is in Malden, said he's a big fan, but he readily admits he's not the biggest in the legal community.

"I wear the colors," said Rowe, who has three degrees from WVU. "I have the tie on today and a pin. But guys like Harry Bell … they're just wild."

Rowe predicts a Thursday victory over the Longhorns.

"I think they'll beat Texas," he said. "They know they should've beaten them last time. The next game, which I hope is Duke, they'll be eyeball-to-eyeball.

"I think WVU has a good shot at the Final Four."

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