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Ambitious schedules pay off for WVU, MU basketball teams

By Jack Bogaczyk

The Mountain State is fortunate to have two major college basketball coaches who are willing to be challenged. Read on to see what I mean.

It will be a very tough turnaround for West Virginia later this week, but also an enriching one.

Coach Bob Huggins' wet-behind-ears team goes to Wichita, Kan., on Thursday for a 9 p.m. (EST) tipoff against unbeaten Kansas State (5-0), and then returns to the WVU Coliseum for a 7 p.m. game Saturday against Miami (5-2 and entertaining No. 21 Memphis tonight).

Both WVU games will be televised by ESPN2. What that means is that West Virginia, through Big East revenue sharing, will receive $100,000 apiece for those games, because they air on a national network (CBS, ESPN, ESPN2).

So, Huggins is helping the bottom line as well as his team's RPI by playing a good non-league schedule.

In Huggins' five seasons on his alma mater's sideline (including 2011-12), WVU will have earned $1 million for 10 non-league games on national TV, including home-and-homes with Ohio State and Purdue.

The Big East's telecast payout doesn't include games in NCAA exempt events or special series like the Big East-SEC Challenge, just games scheduled by the schools, like the home loss last month to Kent State that Huggins was willing to move back one day to a 10 a.m. start for ESPN's Tipoff Marathon.

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THE EARLY yakking on the quality of Marshall's ambitious 2011-12 hoops schedule focused on dates with Big East members Cincinnati, Syracuse and WVU, but that top-six conference vision is really shortsighted.

Two of the Herd's next three home games will be RPI boosters, as Coach Tom Herrion is bringing in quality teams that aren't recognized much by those who don't follow hoops religiously.

On Sunday afternoon, Iona (6-1) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference visits the Henderson Center. The Gaels are in a stretch of eight consecutive road games (playing tonight at 6-1 Denver), but have lost only their opener, 91-90, to a good Purdue club (7-2) in Puerto Rico.

On Dec. 19, while most of Gang Green will be thinking about the football Herd playing FIU the following night in the Beef Bowl, Atlantic Sun favorite Belmont (5-2) visits for the opener of a home-and-home with Marshall (the return game is Dec. 29 in Nashville, Tenn.).

You may have heard of the two teams that beat the Bruins as visitors - nationally ranked Duke and Memphis.

Iona and Belmont are top 60 RPI clubs. Syracuse was No. 5 for MU's visit Tuesday night. Marshall was at 100. It will be interesting to see what RPI spike the Herd gets for playing at the Carrier Dome.

As I left "the Cam" last week after Marshall's defeat by Ohio, I overheard one fan telling another something about a "bad loss."

Wrong. The Bobcats are 5-1 heading to (RPI No. 85) Oakland tonight.

Ohio U. is No. 33 in the RPI. A bad loss is when you fall at home to a team that's No. 233.

*  *  *

WHEN YOU change conferences, there are sometimes glitches that need to be ironed out.

So it seems for Huggins' program, if WVU gets its wish and exits the Big East for the Big 12 in time for next season.

K-State is scheduled to return the neutral site Wichita date to the Charleston Civic Center, but if Huggins' former coaching stop and WVU are in the same conference, they'll already have a home-and-home series in the 18-game league schedule.

So, what happens to a third date in Charleston?

"Oliver (Luck, WVU athletic director) is dealing with it," Huggins said on a Monday media conference call. "I've turned it over to him and he's looking into it."

Huggins is not averse to facing K-State three times next season, and if it happens, the Civic Center game would not count in the Big 12 standings.

"That would be something different," Huggins said. "I'm not opposed to different."

There's more of the same, too.

The recently announced eight teams in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando next Thanksgiving weekend include WVU and Oklahoma, and if the Mountaineers get their league move right away, it makes sense that the two would be placed in opposite brackets to lessen the possibility of a third Sooner-Mountaineer meeting in 2012-13.

An immediate move also would eliminate a WVU home game payback from Saturday's road date at Mississippi State in the restructured Big East-SEC Challenge, too.

Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at jackb@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.


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