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Catching up with Huggins; predicting the Big 12's future

MORGANTOWN - Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind while wondering if Storrs, Conn., is, for the first time, within Bob Huggins' recruiting territory.

I wondered that, of course, because it seems the roads heading out of Storrs - there aren't many, by the way - are fairly crowded these days. With Connecticut barred from the NCAA tournament next season, Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond opted for the NBA draft (not that they wouldn't have anyway), Alex Oriakhi is going to Missouri, and Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley have announced their intent to transfer and are openly shopping for new schools.

And they can play right away because of the postseason ban.

So might Huggins be interested in either Smith or Bradley? Well, yes. And no.

"Where would I put someone new?'' Huggins asked on a break from his Florida fishing trip Wednesday.

Indeed, while the NCAA's spring signing period is in full swing, don't expect Huggins to land anyone new, be it transfers or high school recruits. With eight returnees, the two transfers who sat out last winter, and three incoming freshmen, he's at the maximum 13 scholarships.

Too bad, too, because otherwise he might have had a shot at Smith. West Virginia was one of the 6-foot-8 junior's final choices when he opted for UConn out of Oak Hill Academy as the No. 16 recruit in the country two years ago.

Of course, coaches can do some pretty creative things with their rosters, so don't slam the door shut on Huggins adding someone if he just can't afford to pass. But it looks like the chances are remote.

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  • If someone put a gun to your head and forced you to wager on whether or not the Big 12 eventually returns to 12 schools, the smart money would be on yes.

    As Oliver Luck said last week, "There is some strength in numbers.'' West Virginia's athletic director pointed to the SEC and its 14 schools and the ACC, which will grow to 14 when Pitt and Syracuse eventually land there. The Big Ten and Pac 12 seem settled at 12 for now, but it would surprise absolutely no one if they expanded again, too.

    Shoot, even look at the Big East, which in a few years it seems will be at what, 48? And there sits the Big 12, not even living up to its own numerical moniker. No, expansion is going to happen. It's just a matter of when and with whom.

    For the life of me, though, I can't fathom how any football coach would be in favor of it. Yet there was Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville earlier this week pining for 12 teams to get back to the league's championship-game format.

    "I would like to see us add a couple more [schools] here in the future to get us back to 12 [and] to a conference championship game,'' Tuberville said Monday during a Big 12 football coaches spring teleconference with the media. "But who's out there? Everybody's kind of scrambling around trying to fill it up.''

    When expansion happens, it will be because of television. More schools mean more markets and bigger contracts. That's a given. And Luck is right, too, about safety in numbers. The Big 12 has lost four teams in the last two years. If anyone else hits the bricks, it would be a lot easier to absorb in a 12-team league than one with just 10.

    But from a purely football perspective, there's only one reason to add a title game and that's image. If everyone else plays one and the Big 12 doesn't, it looks like the league is behind the times.

    But the fact of the matter is, league championship games do no one any good from a competitive standpoint. No team has ever played its way into the BCS title game solely by winning one of those conference extravaganzas (it took someone else losing, too), but plenty have played their way out.

    It's going to happen, though. Eventually the Big 12 will add teams or get an NCAA exemption and play that 13th game again. It's too lucrative to ignore, even if it's counterproductive to the teams themselves.

    What I'm anxious to see is how the school presidents - who have for years complained about adding even one game at the end of the season to determine a national champion - will rationalize it when they approve what amounts to the four-team playoff the BCS seems headed toward in talks this week, plus a league title game. Now we're up to a 12-game regular season, two more (a title game and a bowl) for two teams from each conference, and three more for the final two teams.

    Yeah, it's all about academics.

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  • And finally, back to Huggins, who still has an opening on his staff after Jerrod Calhoun left to become the head coach at Fairmont State.

    Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, Ron Everhart is still in the mix. But there are a lot of moving parts to it all, not the least of which are Huggins' needs and whether Everhart has a desire to become an assistant again.

    Whatever the outcome, Huggins isn't rushing things.

    "I'm in no hurry. There's nothing going on until July,'' Huggins said Wednesday, referring mainly to recruiting. "If this was September, I'd be pushing guys to make decisions. But right now there's no need for that.''

    Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1


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