MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - College basketball is always redefining itself. One year the 3-point line is moved back. Whispers grow louder every year that maybe the court should be lengthened or widened -or both -to accommodate the game's growing athletes.
Next year might see a 3-foot half circle painted under the basket to clarify the block/charge rule ... two years after an ambiguous rule was supposed to solve that problem.
The NCAA Tournament had 64 teams from 1985 to 2001, when it allowed one more team and a play-in game. Last summer it seemed imminent we'd see 96 teams, but expansion was limited to include 68. Those play-in games are now first-round games. Sixty teams don't play a first-round game, but begin with a second-round game.
On and on it goes, as the governors of the game examine timeouts and fouls and replays and the proper ways to interpret and adjudicate.
Now it's the participants taking it upon themselves to alter their identities.
"Mid-major" has been a big-time buzzword for many years. Small schools from small conferences kept causing a stir at the mixers reserved for the larger entities and in 1999 CollegeInsider.com said enough was enough and introduced the now relevant Mid-Major Top 25.
Trouble is, it's a dated system, although through no fault of its own.
Butler has been in back-to-back NCAA title games. Gonzaga takes chartered flights to its road games. George Mason and VCU have been to Final Fours.
Mason held onto its their coach for as long as possible before Jim Larranaga left for Miami (Fla.) - and the Patriots replaced him with Paul Hewitt, who led Georgia Tech to the Final Four in 2004. The Rams just rewarded Coach Shaka Smart by almost quadrupling his salary.
These don't look like mid-major programs on the floor. They're not acting like them off the floor, either.
Oh, some still are. Some have left that party. Others are saying their goodbyes. Every one of them seeks equal footing with their bigger brethren.
All of which brings you to the desk of Jerrod Calhoun, who has been West Virginia's director of basketball operations since 2007. One of Calhoun's biggest responsibilities is assembling the WVU schedule, and in a normal season that's going to include about a half-dozen low- to mid-major programs.
Three of those, Calhoun said, are to be "the best mid-majors you can play."
For the 2011-12 seasons, Calhoun said WVU has secured three "very, very good" mid-majors. One in particular has become something of an offseason obsession for people trying to identify what team could make Calhoun say the Mountaineers "were pretty surprised they wanted to play."
Early guesses: Gonzaga, Butler, Xavier, Memphis.