MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia arrived at basketball practice Tuesday at No. 5 in the RPI with the seventh-strongest schedule in the country.
The non-conference calendar is loaded - as it normally is under Coach Bob Huggins - although while it contains the games against Miami (Fla.), Minnesota, Vanderbilt and Purdue from the so-called major conferences, the strength actually can be found in the mid-majors the Mountaineers will play this season.
WVU (4-1) plays host to American University at 7 tonight at the WVU Coliseum. The Eagles (5-1) were picked to win the Patriot League. Oakland (Mich.), which opened its season with a 95-71 loss to WVU, was picked to win the Summit League.
"It doesn't do us any good to go out and win by 40," Huggins said. "You don't learn a lot. You're better off playing teams that will give us a game, but you still need to win them. It's a big blow when you lose.
"It's kind of what I did at Cincinnati. I tried really hard not to play teams that I didn't think were going to be at least in the top 150 in the country. It's hard to tell sometimes, but you do the best you can."
Huggins and his director of basketball operations, Jerrod Calhoun, who was charged with assembling the schedule, did pretty well.
Robert Morris, which visits the Coliseum on Dec. 7, was picked second in the Northeast Conference and is No. 31 in the RPI. VMI, a 82-66 loser to WVU Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center, was picked fifth in the Big South. The Davidson team WVU beat in the opening game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off was picked third in its division of the Southern Conference.
Cleveland State was picked third in the Horizon League, but already is 7-0, No. 20 in the RPI and No. 5 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25.
The worst of the mid-major opponents would be Duquesne of the Atlantic 10. The Dukes, currently No. 310 of 348 teams in the RPI, were picked eighth in the conference, but have given WVU good competition as part of the perennial series between the schools.
"We're trying to play some schools that are going to end up in the RPI top 150, at least," Huggins said. "Really, we'd like for them to be in the top 100. If those people stay in the top 100, it's a really big boost for our RPI.
"I think, to a degree, that's why some schools play Division II schools - because they don't count in the RPI - rather than play a team that's going to be 300 or lower, at least lower than 250."
The Eagles have five starters and 12 letter-winners back from last season. They're led by former Virginia Coach Jeff Jones and 6-foot-8 senior forward Vlad Moldoveanu.