Coast to coast hoops
SPOKANE, Wash. -- West Virginia University's basketball team is scheduled to travel 31,128 miles this season, its first in the Big 12.
To get to the regular season opener here against Gonzaga, the Mountaineers flew about 4,200 miles.
WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins, however, did what he could to minimize the effects of travel. The Mountaineers left Morgantown early Saturday morning and arrived in Spokane around 1 p.m.
They practiced Saturday night and Sunday afternoon before the midnight ET on Monday. That was a 9 p.m. tip here.
After the game, however, WVU was on a red-eye schedule to return. The team had a 5:30 a.m. flight through Denver and into Pittsburgh before busing to Morgantown.
Before the game, Huggins announced he'd be starting Boston College transfer Matt Humphrey instead of Keaton Miles, who started in the Glenville exhibition.
The rest of the starting lineup was scheduled to be Juwan Staten, Jabarie Hinds, Deniz Kilicli and Aaric Murray.
On Monday, WVU deputy athletic director Mike Parsons clarified the way WVU's game at Gonzaga was set up.
"It originated from ESPN, which was looking for a game to place in its [Tip-Off Marathon] of 24 hours of basketball," he said. "Our game tip [was] right after Monday Night Football, which is an ideal spot, especially since the [Pittsburgh] Steelers [were] playing.
"Last year, we played in the [Marathon] against Kent State on a Tuesday morning. Overall, it's a promotional thing by ESPN. They have 24 hours of consecutive basketball on ESPN or ESPN2. Some start at 6 a.m. But we got that ideal spot after Monday Night Football."
Parsons said Gonzaga would play in Morgantown next season.
"The game this year is also considered a preliminary game to the Old Spice Classic, which is in Orlando. It's not likely, but we could play Gonzaga again there. [Big 12 league partner] Oklahoma is also in it. We could end up playing [the Sooners] up to four times: twice in league play, once in Orlando and once in the Big 12 tournament."
Parsons added that neither Gonzaga nor WVU would be paying money guarantees to the other.
Gonzaga entered Monday's late game with a 104-7 home record inside the McCarthey Athletic Center, named for former newspaper publishing donors that owned the Salt Lake Tribune.
Part of the reason for the success is the enthusiasm around the Zags' program. The Center only holds 6,000, but students were camping out in the snow on Sunday to get tickets.
GU spokesman Oliver Pierce said students receive between 1,200 and 1,300 tickets per game and camp out in their Tent City to acquire them. The school provides generators for power.
Monday's game might have provoked a provoking memory for WVU's Huggins. Back in 2003, while the coach at Cincinnati, Huggins was booted from an NCAA tournament game, courtesy of official Mike Kitts.
Huggins, however, wasn't the only one ejected. In addition, Kitts kicked out UC radio announcer Chuck Machock.
The opponent that night in Salt Lake City? Gonzaga.