The West Virginia men's basketball team came out on top of Wednesday's 40-minute Capital Classic prize fight - or mixed martial arts match, if you count Marshall forward Robert Goff's kick to Juwan Staten that led to five players getting ejected.
Looking at their next week's worth of games, the Mountaineers can consider that round one.
WVU's 69-59 win over Marshall was the start of tough streak of games that continues Saturday at 4 p.m. against Virginia Tech (ESPN2). After that is a Dec. 11 trip to Duquesne, then a Dec. 15 game in Brooklyn, N.Y., against No. 3 Michigan. That's a 7-0 Hokies team, a Dukes team that lost to WVU by three points the last time the two played in 2010, and the powerhouse Wolverines.
WVU Coach Bob Huggins said the Mountaineers (3-3) could benefit from a brutal early schedule in a couple of ways. They can be an NCAA Tournament resume builder. Huggins remembered a year when Kansas State finished fourth in the Big 12, four teams went to the NCAA tourney and his wasn't one of them.
Plus, these early games should steel the Mountaineers for a Big 12 schedule that includes home-and-homes with Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
"That's the theory we're hangin' on to," Huggins said. "I do think sometimes when you don't play anybody ... what are you supposed to do, come out after beating VMI the way we beat VMI and yell and scream about how we didn't do certain things right? I think it does fall on deaf ears. That's the advantage of playing people."
Huggins also understands the possible drawbacks. Sure, playing well against the Herd, Hokies, Dukes and Wolverines could do wonders for the team's confidence. But what would result if West Virginia struggled?
"The theory is that it does make you better down the stretch," he said. "It does make you more prepared. You just hope it doesn't ... sometimes it can screw with guys' confidence a little bit and with their heads a little bit. You hope that doesn't happen. I don't think it has."
The compacted nature of these games is something different for the Mountaineers. WVU had to wait 10 days to play Marist after getting throttled by Gonzaga in its season opener. There were seven days between the Mountaineers' blowout of VMI and Wednesday's Capital Classic.