On the surface, it smacks of lunacy.
Two collegiate basketball teams playing each other twice in four days? Two arch-rivals competing in a home-and-home scenario in the same week? A pair of teams that are members of the same conference engaging in this inane twin bill?
Yes, it sounds crazy.
So crazy, the esteemed John Wooden is probably shaking his head in wonderment right about now in hoops heaven.
But guess what.
It’s not crazy.
Marshall University hosting Western Kentucky on Wednesday night in the Cam Henderson Center and then taking on the Hilltoppers again on Saturday night in E.A. Diddle Arena at Bowling Green, Kentucky, actually was a very intelligent idea under the circumstances.
Ah, there’s the rub.
The oh-so-mysterious “circumstances.”
In this case, it’s a smart way to get around Conference USA’s ill-conceived “pod system.” Remember that bad idea from the 2018-19 season? The concept that failed so miserably? Well, C-USA’s hierarchy forced it on the league’s men’s basketball coaches again for the 2019-20 campaign.
Except this time, veteran Thundering Herd coach Danny D’Antoni found a way around it. Namely, playing travel partner Western Kentucky twice in one week.
“The ‘pod system’ forced us to do this,” explained D’Antoni. “Either you play the same team in one week or play three teams in one week. You are taking a choice of either playing three in one week or playing them in the same week that you have the bye.
“I preferred the same week because of the travel situation and what it did to us last year.”
Oh, yes, last year.
Remember that disastrous span?
Marshall defeated Western Kentucky 70-69 on Jan. 12 in the Henderson Center. Then the Herd lost to the Hilltoppers 68-59 in E.A Diddle Arena nine days later on Jan. 21.
Next, Marshall went straight from Bowling Green, Kentucky, all the way to Ruston, Louisiana, and lost to Louisiana Tech 89-80 three days later on Jan. 24.
Then the road weary Herd traveled by bus from Ruston to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and was pummeled by Southern Miss 101-51 two days later on Jan. 26.
Marshall played three road games in six days and rode buses for hours and hours and hours. Is it any wonder the Herd’s season was short-circuited by that horrific slate? Marshall promptly went on a season-wrecking 1-7 skid.
“Again, last year we had streaks of 5-0, 1-7 and 5-0,” said D’Antoni. “I think that took us right out of contention for winning the league last year.
“So I kind of pushed that issue for this season. I would not let that one go. Last year we didn’t have a choice. This year we had it. I think I made the right choice.”
Indeed, he did.
It’s the smart choice.
Sure, Marshall still is going to be playing three consecutive road games in eight days. But the difference is this season Marshall won’t be staying out on the road.
After playing Western Kentucky on Saturday night, Marshall traveled back to Huntington and the players slept in their own beds. The Herd will practice in “The Cam” on Monday and Tuesday, then fly to Miami on Wednesday for a game at FIU at 7 p.m. Thursday. Then MU will conclude the road trip with a 4 p.m. game on Saturday at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton and fly back to Huntington.
This makes sense.
It was easily the right solution.