WVU men's basketball team might not play second game at Civic Center
MORGANTOWN - Assistant coach Jerrod Calhoun and West Virginia University's men's basketball team are getting closer to completing the 2012-13 schedule.
All that remains of the 10 non-conference openings is one home game against a team from a major conference, a vacancy Calhoun, Coach Bob Huggins and deputy athleteic director Mike Parsons hope to fill.
"There will be one more very good, high major coming to Morgantown," Calhoun said. "We're looking for one more high major for a series, not just for a game in Morgantown."
WVU begins play in the Big 12 Conference next season and the league schedule accounts for 18 of the 28 openings. The Mountaineers will play a double round robin Big 12 schedule - home and away games against the other nine teams. As a result, WVU will play host to Kansas State in the Coliseum.
Previously, the Wildcats were to play in the Charleston Civic Center as a return game for the two-game series that started this past season in Manhattan, Kan. The Mountaineers will still play Marshall in the Charleston Civic Center, but Parsons said Wednesday WVU is not yet sure it will play a second game in the building.
That created one of two non-conference needs for WVU. Calhoun said the other opening came when WVU left the Big East Conference and lost its spot in the Big East/SEC Challenge. The Mountaineers were due to play at home.
Of the 10 non-conference openings, nine are filled and many are known or confirmed.
"Here's our philosophy," said Calhoun, who just finished his first season as an assistant after spending the previous four as the director of basketball operations. "We'll play three high-major games, we want to play the nation's best mid-majors that are close that we can get and then we want to play an exempt tournament every year that's on television.
"With that, you get the TV exposure that lets you go into a recruit's home and say, 'We're going to be on national TV such-and-such times.' "
In addition to the as-yet unscheduled major conference team, WVU plays Michigan on Dec. 15 as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. The game will be played at the Barclays Center, the new home of the NBA's New Jersey Nets. WVU will also play at Purdue after a game between the two originally scheduled for this past season was pushed back a year.
The Mountaineers will also be in the Old Spice Classic Nov. 22-25 at the HP Field House, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. They're guaranteed three games, but only count one toward the 28 they're allowed. WVU is in the field with UTEP, Marist, Davidson, Clemson, Vanderbilt, the Big 12's Oklahoma and Gonzaga, which ended WVU's season in the NCAA Tournament.
"The rest are mid-majors," Calhoun said, "They'll be good again. I don't know if they'll be as good as Oral Roberts, Kent State or Akron were this year. I don't know how our schedule can top that schedule. Oral Roberts had a hell of a year. Kent State had a hell of a year. Akron had a hell of a year."
All but two of the mid-major games will be at home. WVU plays Marshall at the Civic Center in the Capital Classic and Duquesne in the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The remaining opponents aren't known, but they ought to be at least familiar.
Calhoun said he looks at teams no more than a four-hour bus ride away, or teams that are willing to bus in rather than fly. He then has to figure out which teams are willing to travel to Morgantown for what is most likely a loss, but also a gain.
"On their end, it's all about location and all about money," Calhoun said. "Some schools have to play a certain amount of money games because that's what's best for their program and their athletic department - and some schools don't. Some mid-majors shy away from competition and some take some convincing."
Other schools are ambitious. They're willing to take paydays and beatings. They're willing to travel. They're willing to take a chance to make a splash. A few are eager and obvious.
"I think you look at mid-majors that have good coaches," Calhoun said. "They play good teams. The (assistant) coach I dealt with at Oral Roberts last year, he said, 'Coach, we're not going to beat you, but I guarantee you we're going to be a top-100 RPI win.' A guy who says that, you've got to play them."
By whatever means, Calhoun has for four years now helped put together schedules that have consistently challenged and later benefited the Mountaineers.
Their strength of schedule and RPI have been consistently impressive and helped out quite a bit this past season. WVU was a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament despite the fewest wins, most losses and lowest RPI among the at-large teams.
"Huggs never shies away from competition," Calhoun said, "but he did tell me, 'You're screwing up my record. You're scheduling too hard.' "
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.