Big 12 move has some downside for West Virginia basketball
Bob Huggins and West Virginia are leaving behind a stout brand in Big East basketball and arriving in a conference that will mean major road trips for the Mountaineers. But they will land in a more stable conference and help plug the hoops hole left by Missouri's departure.
West Virginia football to the Big 12 was a no-brainer.
West Virginia basketball to the Big 12? Brainer.
Big East hoops is a stout brand. Georgetown, Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, Madison Square Garden. That's a lot to leave behind.
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Berry Tramel's six-part series on the Big 12's newcomers:
— West Virginia pride
— West Virginia football
— West Virginia basketball
— TCU pride
— TCU basketball
— TCU football
But West Virginia hoops coach Bob Huggins puts on a good front.
“I don't know that what you said is totally accurate,” Huggins said the other day when asked if he took one for the team in going willingly to the Big 12.
Huggins explained it this way.
* Big East instability. Pitt and Syracuse are headed for the ACC. At the time of West Virginia's departure, speculation had Rutgers and Connecticut headed for the ACC or even the Big Ten.
* Big 12 prowess. “Obviously, the Big East is very good,” Huggins said. “But I think the Big 12 is equally as good. Probably better top to bottom.”
And it's not like the Big 12 is void of marquee basketball names.
“I can't wait for Kansas to come here in basketball,” said West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck. “That's going to be a red-letter day in West Virginia.”
Missouri's departure left a basketball hole in the Big 12. West Virginia ably fills it. The Mountaineers have been to the NCAA Tournament all five seasons since Huggins returned to his alma mater, after one season at Kansas State. Huggins coached West Virginia to the 2010 Final Four.
Huggins is not Pollyannish about the Big 12. He admits to some downside.
First, the travel. In a sport that often has back-to-back road games and routinely has midweek games, West Virginia's travel demands are fierce.
The Mountaineers have nine major road trips, ranging in mileage from 870 miles (to Iowa State) to 1,465 miles (Texas Tech). “We gotta do it nine times,” Huggins said. “They gotta come back this way once.”
And it's not like the ruggedness ends once you reach the arena. Huggins said the Big 12 has “probably as good a homecourt advantage as any league in America.”