You are looking live at the insert in the campus newspaper today that’s all over the purple-clad student section. Translation: “Sentiment is for suckers. There’s a W on the line tonight and a conference title is within reach. Let’s reminisce later.”
This is WVU’s third and final Big Monday and third and final Saturday-Monday sequence in Big 12 play. The Mountaineers were 0-2 in their first run and 2-0 in the second. They won Saturday’s game against Texas Tech, which has been the Saturday opponent in two of the three quick turn arounds. Good omen, you say?
Well, about those Big Mondays …
WVU is playing at a decided disadvantage tonight.
First, this is at Bramlage Coliseum, which is a rather difficult place to play. The students are abut eight feet from the floor and the 12,528 sort of shower down upon you. They’re also united tonight by purple T-shirts.
The Wildcats are 14-1 at home this season and 30-2 the past two seasons. So they’re hood here. They were also here Saturday and having two home games in the Saturday-Monday sequence is rare. I might argue unfair.
I count five in the Big 12 this season — and two, for some reason, belong to Iowa State.
WVU’s other Saturday-Monday sequences deserve a second look. Did you know that none of the three teams WVU plays on a Saturday has played that Monday? That seems … weird. And I might argue unfair.
WVU traveled to Oklahoma State for a Saturday/Jan. 26 game after winning at home three days earlier. The Cowboys, who beat the Mountaineers, played five days earlier. The Mountaineers then played host to Kansas two days later. The Jayhawks played and won at home that Saturday.
WVU played a Saturday/Feb. 2 game at Texas Tech, the longest conference trip the team will make. WVU played four days before beating the Red Raiders, who had played six days earlier. The Mountaineers then won at home that Monday against Texas, which at home against TCU that Saturday.
The Mountaineers beat Texas Tech again Saturday. WVU lost three days earlier at Baylor while the Red Raiders lost at home three days earlier against Oklahoma State. So this one threatens to be normal until you consider Kansas State hasn’t had to travel at all for this game. If you don’t believe that matters you’re lying to yourself. In Big 12 play, the team that’s had to travel to a Monday road game after playing Saturday is 1-8 — and the win belongs to Kansas at the Coliseum when the Jayhawks had a good bit of trouble.
The Big 12 ought to, and really has to, do something about the scheduling here and has to pay unique attention to WVU. I’m not sure what the fix is, though, but it has to be reworked and it’s been brought to my attention some voices that don’t wear university apparel need to make noise.
Nine of the 10 teams have a two sets of back-to-back road games. The exception is Texas and the schedule makes up for it with some other quirks — Jan. 30 at Kansas State, Feb. 2 at home against TCU, Feb. 4 at WVU is one example.
The Mountaineers might need that sort of benefit, that on top of Bob Huggins admitting he can’t make a non-conference road trip in the midst of Big 12 play in the future. Yet if you don’t have back-to-back road games, it’s hard to get back-to-back home games.
Maybe the Big 12 can set up more manageable back-to-backs, as opposed to at TCU-at Baylor.
A more likely scenario is seeing Big 12 play starting earlier. Huggins told me earlier this season he suggested that to the Big 12 so that some of the games were on winter break and his students weren’t as adversely affected in the classroom. That’s one benefit, but you can also space out some of the time between games, even back-to-back road games.
These Saturday-Mondays are, in theory, great for recruiting and resume visibility and great for postseason preparation, but believe they have an effect on the competitors.
“I’ll never forget my first year in the Big East I’m sitting there and Mike Brey is bitching about having so many Big Monday games. I’m sitting there thinking, “I’ll take all of them. It’s great exposure.’ Then the first year we had like three of them and I think we lost two of them. I’m like, ‘I ain’t sure this Big Monday is all it’s cracked up to be.’ “