The bandbox, Huggins and Shocking the bracket world
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The views from here:
What was known: The Mountaineers played in what headline writer Nick Scala called a "bandbox." Our Dave Hickman called McDonough Arena "the tiny, ancient, on-campus gym."
Um, did that make any sense to anyone - on any level?
If you're unaware, the higher seed in the NIT is allowed to host the game. But Georgetown's website said the place holds 2,500 fans. WVU's old Field House in Stansbury Hall held almost triple that. Fairmont State's Joe Retton Arena holds 1,500 more fans. Heck, go over to the University of Charleston's ancient Eddie King gym. You just need to add 500 seats to match McDonough.
"It's interesting," said WVU athletic director Oliver Luck. "It's not a smart decision financially. We could have sold 5,000 to 6,000 tickets on short notice."
Instead, WVU was given 100 to 150 tickets to the game, according to Luck.
It's head-scratching. There are no standards for an NIT arena? Heck, there are facility standards for West Virginia Class A high school football playoffs.
"You could make the argument a [NIT] game shouldn't be played in an arena of less than 5,000," Luck said, "or one in which you don't play the majority of your games."
Luck didn't totally degrade the venue, though, calling it a "throwback to the 1950s" and said the players' experience "could be kind of cool."
"I might, though, have a different opinion afterward," he concluded.
Henson has a connection to MU athletic director Mike Hamrick because both worked at UNLV. Hamrick hired current OU coach Lon Kruger in Vegas, who then hired Henson.
You might remember that back in 2010, when Hamrick was searching, Henson was a finalist. Tom Herrion, of course, landed the job before being cut loose last week.
Anyway, those in the Midwest are familiar with Henson. He was a four-year, record-setting starting point guard for Kruger during his days at Kansas State. In 1990, he was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the NBA draft and played for five teams in that league: Milwaukee, Atlanta, Charlotte, Portland and Detroit.
A potential splash of a possible Bruce Pearl hire, by the way, was calmed when Auburn hired the coach on Tuesday.
It reminded me of the delusional guy on the TV commercial who ate wild berries, chased imaginary butterflies and walked into something highly illegal.
All Huggins has done is win 740 games in his career, take the Mountaineers to five NCAA tournaments and this NIT in seven seasons, and lead his team to the 2010 Final Four after it won the Big East tournament. In addition, he mostly raised the money for the new practice facility. He visited Upper Big Branch during the time of catastrophe. He raises tons of money for cancer research. He ...
"Bob Huggins is not being fired," Luck said. "I think he's done a pretty good job this year. After last season he said he was going to fix it and he's done a pretty decent job of it. Next year could be fun."
Luck said he's seen Jonathan Holton practice and calls the big man "legit."
But back to the statement on Kercheval's show.
"If someone said that then they don't understand college basketball," Luck said. "Look at the Big 12. We finished .500 in the nation's toughest conference. The other 9-9 team [Baylor] finished No. 23 in the country.
"Even in the best years in the Big East there were five or six teams to beat up on. You don't have that in this 10-team conference. That's not an excuse, it's reality."
In my NCAA "bracket of integrity" I've tried an experiment. You know how coaches always say you need strong defense and rebounding to survive and advance?
Well, I took that to heart. I looked at rebound margin and field goal percentage defense and put heavy weight on those two stats. I also gave weight to teams with the best guards. And, for kicks, I sprinkled in a few points to teams at the top of NCAA scoring offense.
My shocking tourney champ: Wichita State.
As you know, the area has a connection to the Shockers. WSU coach Gregg Marshall was an assistant at Marshall in 1997 and '98 and recruited, among others, Travis Young and Joda Burgess.
Surprised at what he's done in Wichita? Don't be. Marshall hit the junior colleges harder than Miguel Cabrera hits a fastball. He hired assistant Steve Forbes from Northwest Florida State and assistant Greg Heiar, who was at Chipola (Fla.) JC for six years before moving to Southern Miss for a season.
And check the Shockers' roster. Top scorer Cleanthony Early, who averages 15.8 points, is a JUCO transfer. So is Darius Carter, who averages 8.1. And Chadrick Lutile, who averages 5.8. Ditto Nick Wiggins, who averages 5.1 and is the brother of Kansas star Andrew.
So that's my NCAA haymaker attempt: Wichita State.
You can take Florida or Arizona.
I'll be trying to Shocker the world.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.