CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In Tuesday's Gazette, our Dave Hickman wrote about WVU's basketball schedule.He pointed out the Mountaineers' RPI strength of schedule currently ranks No. 102, but, according to Statsheet.com, projects to finish the season at No. 4.The reason is tied to the Big 12's strong, early start. It's currently ranked No. 1 among all conferences, which affords WVU many nice opportunities to notch quality wins.That doesn't, however, exactly bode well for the 7-4 Mountaineers. Their .636 winning percentage against non-conference competition is last within the Big 12.
So, with the league schedule looming, it seemed the right time to call Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins and pose this question to him: Are all hopes dead of forward Jonathan Holton joining the team this season?"Not officially," Huggins said. "It's about the same as it's been. I can't get into it because of federal [privacy] laws."It's curious that Holton's case hasn't been closed by now, 11 games into the season. But it's also understandable the school keeps it open in an attempt to declare him eligible. The former Rhode Island and Palm Beach (Fla.) State Community College standout was expected to lead WVU both in scoring and rebounding. They could especially use him now, even if it torches a redshirt season.Then there's the case of Elijah Macon, who apparently is sitting out as a partial qualifier. Huggins has repeatedly mentioned a wrist injury that's keeping Macon, a power forward, shelved."The doctors say there is some [mending] growth there," Huggins said. "They say the best thing for him is to have no contact. He saw a specialist who didn't think another surgery would be a good idea. They did a bone graft and the bones need to grow back together."As many of you know, I host an unplugged live sports show on Mondays at Bobby's in Cross Lanes. Well, this past Monday, former WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong was the guest.
He confirmed that Clarksburg native Jimbo Fisher, who has Florida State in the BCS title game, was a serious contender to replace former WVU coach Rich Rodriguez.You might recall that Fisher was the FSU coach in waiting to replace Bobby Bowden at that time. Fisher was guaranteed $2.5 million should he not replace Bowden, but was prohibited from negotiating with other schools. Apparently, Fisher was given the blessing to talk to WVU from then-FSU president T.K. Wetherell, because negotiate the two sides did."During that period, there was an exchange between WVU and [Fisher's] agent [Jimmy Sexton]," Pastilong said. "There were several. More than several. But at the end of it, I guess the prospects at Florida State won out."It was reported that, during that weekend, Wetherell and Fisher spoke three times on the Sunday. (That, kids, is how you play the negotiating game.)"We never got to the point of a flat-out offer," Pastilong said. "We were seriously interested. But as we moved along it became clearer and clearer he'd stay at Florida State."WVU, of course, promoted Bill Stewart before experimenting with its own coach-in-waiting scenario via current coach Dana Holgorsen. Fisher, meanwhile, not only has the Seminoles riding high, he recently signed a new contract for $4 million a year through 2018.Back to WVU hoops. First, don't be surprised if the Mountaineers sign another player in addition to guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles when the April 16, 2014, signing day rolls around. Word is, West Virginia is involved with some top-flight prospects. There's always room at the inn for those.
Second, I came across a list, compiled by Athlon magazine, that ranked the top NCAA recruiting classes since 2000. Slotted at No. 12 was the Kentucky class that featured John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins. The class that went 35-3. The class that fell to WVU in the Elite Eight.In case you haven't been paying close attention to richly talented Huntington Prep, the Irish fell in the USA Today Super 25 rankings last week from No. 3 to No. 21 after a pair of losses.
The new rankings are expected out today and the school should move up a bit after three wins, two in the Boyd County [Ky.] Roundball Classic, moved its record to 12-2. JaQuan Lyle, a player WVU is seriously recruiting, led the Irish in scoring the last two outings. He had 26 points, five rebounds and five assists against Pickerington Central the last game out.Oh, and in case you haven't been paying close attention, you can on Thursday. Huntington Prep will go for revenge against Arsenal Tech of Indiana at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN. The No. 17 Arsenal team defeated Prep 54-51 earlier this season.Call this a note of reflection.
In an attempt to be transparent, I try to remember to reprint predictions, etc., after the facts. In the preseason, I predicted WVU would finish 7-5. The Mountaineers finished 4-8, so give me a backward K for a strikeout looking. In regard to Marshall, I predicted a 10-2 season with a Conference USA East title. The Thundering Herd finished 9-3 with a C-USA East title. That might not be a grand slam, but it's definitely a home run.As for my Heisman Trophy vote, I went with 1. Jameis Winston of Florida State, 2. Bryce Petty of Baylor, and 3. Odell Beckham of LSU.It's shocking that Beckham didn't even show up among the top 10 Heisman vote getters. I understand most voters simply follow the talking heads on TV, but Beckham averaged 185.2 all-purpose yards per game while playing in the Southeastern Conference. That stat put him second in the country in all-purpose yardage. He set an LSU record with 2,222 all-purpose yards and won the Paul Hornung Award over players like Johnny Manziel and UCLA two-way freshman Myles Jack.
Then there were our fine staff's predictions. Nick Scala and Rick Ryan finished in a tie for season champ at 121-29. Ryan Pritt was third (120-30), followed by Doug Smock and me (119-31), Dave Hickman (117-33), Jeff Rider (116-34) and Tommy Atkinson (113-37).And finally . . .
A question from reader David Schau.He asks, simply, "Shouldn't Rice be in the Fight Hunger Bowl?"Discuss among yourselves.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.