MORGANTOWN - For only the second time in 11 years, West Virginia won't be playing a second men's basketball game in Charleston next season. In fact, the first one still has yet to be finalized.Blame it on the Big 12, but don't get used to it."Absolutely,'' West Virginia deputy athletic director Mike Parsons said Wednesday when asked if the school planned to resume its twice-yearly treks to the Civic Center as soon as possible. "In fact, don't be surprised if [the second trip is] a Big 12 game.''West Virginia's 2012-13 schedule isn't complete yet, but there are some certainties about it, not the least of which is the absence of that second game at the Civic Center. Since 2002-03, when John Beilein brought Florida and Brett Nelson to town, the Mountaineers have played both Marshall and a second non-conference opponent in Charleston every year except 2005-06. They've ranged from softies like The Citadel and Delaware State to heavyweights Oklahoma and North Carolina State.
It won't happen this season for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is because of the way the Big 12 arranges its schedule. Like the Big East, there are 18 conference games to be played, but there are fewer openings in January and February for non-conference dates."The Big East always gave you one open date on a weekday and one on a weekend to schedule non-conference games,'' Parsons said. "The Big 12 only gives you one open date during the conference season, and that's already been taken by a game we scheduled even before we got into the Big 12.''That contracted non-conference game is the first of another two-year deal with Purdue. This coming season the game is in West Lafayette, Ind., with the return game in Morgantown scheduled for 2013-14.
That's thrown a wrench into the main WVU-at-the-Civic Center attraction each year, the annual West Virginia-Marshall game. That's going to have to move into December for the first time since 1996 and only the second time since 1990. Marshall apparently doesn't like the idea - neither does West Virginia, for that matter - but for the sake of yet another sellout and the good will it generates in the state's capital, the two sides will likely work things out.But there's another significant issue with a second game in Charleston this year, which is actually the main reason it won't be played. Forget the Marshall game and the Big 12 schedule. Those wouldn't really matter if WVU simply decided to move one of its other November or December games to the Civic Center. But the Old Spice Classic won't allow for that."Some of the tournaments we've been a part of the last several years followed the format of two home games followed by the neutral-site games,'' Parsons said. "The Old Spice tournament isn't like that.''Indeed, last year's Las Vegas Classic included home games with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Tennessee Tech at the Coliseum before moving on to games with Missouri State and Baylor in Vegas. That meant two more home games. The Old Spice Classic is simply three neutral-court games in Orlando, Fla., which eliminates two home games.
As a result, aside from the nine Big 12 home games, West Virginia has openings for just five more games at the Coliseum. That already means playing only 14 of 30 games at home, so moving one to Charleston doesn't make much sense.As for the 2012-13 schedule itself, technically only 26 of the 30 games are either signed for or otherwise assured. Remaining to be contracted are four home games in November and December with mid-major opponents. The only non-conference home game assured is the revival of the series with Virginia Tech.Fear not, though, because the home schedule figures to be OK regardless of the to-be-named teams thanks to a Big 12 schedule that includes home-and-home matchups with each of the league's other nine teams. That means at the very least the home schedule will include games with upper-tier teams like Kansas, Texas, Baylor and Kansas State, along with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU and Iowa State.There are road games with each of those nine teams, too, along with the visit to Purdue and a short trip to Pittsburgh to face Duquesne at Consol Energy Arena. Those are likely to be the only true road games, 11 in all.
Five neutral-court games provide some definite intrigue, beginning with the Dec. 15 game against Michigan and former WVU coach John Beilein at the new Barclays Center as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival.In addition to the game with Marshall in Charleston, the other neutral-site games are the three over the Thanksgiving weekend at the Old Spice Classic at Disney World in Orlando. The pairings haven't been announced, but the other seven teams include 2012 NCAA tournament teams Gonzaga, Vanderbilt and Clemson, along with Oklahoma, UTEP, Davidson and Marist.Figure on WVU and Oklahoma being placed in opposite brackets so that the only way they could play a third game next season is if both reach the finals.As for the return game with Kansas State (the teams played in Wichita last season), that was supposed to be the second Charleston game next season, that, of course, won't be played now that the two are league mates. Parsons said there might be some financial settlement worked out there because the contract had to be terminated.And, of course, there's the not-so-small matter of the game on the schedule that has been there every year since 1917 but isn't on it in 2012-13. West Virginia and Pitt will certainly renew acquaintances soon, but that 95-year streak will be broken."Right now they aren't in our thought processes,'' Parsons said.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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