Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers play host to the American Eagles at 7 p.m. tonight and, on the surface, it’s a ho-hum December game and the sort of occasion WVU has had no trouble with in recent years.
The Mountaineers have won 31 straight December home games and 31 straight non-conference home games as part of a 50-2 record in such contests the past eight years.
Yet this is a good American — not to be confused with a great American … like Nate Sowers – that has some serious value for the Mountaineers. The Eagles (5-1) are coached by former Virginia Coach Jeff Jones and have a top talent in Vlad Moldoveanu, a 6-foot-8 fifth-year senior forward who was recruited to WVU by John Beilein and played some on-campus pickup games with Joe Mazzulla when they visited together.
American was also picked to win the Patriot League, meaning its the second non-conference foe to carry that distinction into the Coliseum (Oakland was the preseason pick in the Summit League).
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.”