MORGANTOWN - Save for a handful of notable exceptions, West Virginia's trek through uncharted territory and unfamiliar opponents has come to an end.
Or has it?
Through the Mountaineers' first 13 games, all but a few were unfamiliar. West Virginia has a recent history with Gonzaga, of course, and the 2013-14 Zags looked a lot like those of the past two seasons. But even teams like Marshall, Duquesne and Purdue changed personnel rather dramatically. Same with Virginia Tech, which had some veterans but had lost most of its scoring punch in the form of just one departure.
Pretty much everyone else WVU faced in the non-conference portion of the schedule was brand new.
Well, today the Mountaineers (8-5) return to relatively familiar territory. This afternoon's 4 p.m. (ET) game with TCU (9-3) at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth (Big 12 Network, locally on WQCW) is the start of the 18-game Big 12 season. It's also the front end of a quick two-game road trip that concludes with a Monday night game at Texas Tech.
And after a first-year run through the Big 12 in 2012-13, there is now some familiarity. West Virginia is playing the same nine teams in the same nine arenas (plus return matches with each at the Coliseum), so unlike both last winter and the early part of this season, there's not a lot of mystery surrounding venues or opponents.
"Familiarity, I think, is the biggest thing,'' coach Bob Huggins said. "There's more this year than last year.''
Still, today's game with TCU in a way illustrates at least the partial fallacy that exists when assuming that there is now some degree of familiarity. With only a handful of exceptions - preseason league co-favorite Oklahoma State is one - every Big 12 roster has experienced the same thing that WVU's roster went through during the offseason.
"They're definitely better this year than they were last year,'' guard Terry Henderson said of the Horned Frogs. "They have a lot more pieces this year.''
Indeed, this is not the same TCU team that finished 11-21 overall and won just two Big 12 games a season ago (although one was against Kansas and the other Oklahoma). Two of the five starters are freshmen, including developing 6-foot-10 freshman center Karviar Shepherd, and 6-9 junior Amric Fields finally seems healthy after playing only three games a year ago. Guard Kyan Anderson is back and leading the team in scoring (16.5).