MORGANTOWN - West Virginia's Big East basketball schedule next season will present no shortage of challenges. In fact, it seems loaded with them.
The league announced the 2010-11 opponents for each school Thursday and West Virginia's eight road games are predominantly against upper-division teams in the conference, while the eight home games include many of the traditional also-rans.
Once again, each of the league's 16 teams will play 18 Big East games. Of the 15 possible opponents, each team plays 12 of them once and the other three twice.
So how difficult is WVU's draw? Well, for starters, two of West Virginia's three home-and-home opponents are traditional powers - Pitt and Louisville. The other is recent bottom-dweller DePaul. The Mountaineers will play each of those teams at the Coliseum and on the road.
That's not unusual, though. Upper-division teams are generally paired against each other in at least two of the three home-and-home games. Pitt will always be one of those repeat games for WVU because of the rivalry. This is the second time in recent seasons that Louisville was also on the schedule twice.
As for the one-time opponents, the road games include visits to Marquette, Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown. Combined with the trips to Pitt and Louisville, that means six of WVU's nine road games are against teams that finished in the top half of last year's standings. The other three road games are at always-pesky Cincinnati, along with Rutgers and DePaul.
The home schedule, meanwhile, appears considerably less taxing. There are home dates with Connecticut, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, South Florida and DePaul. While UConn is generally a powerhouse, all six of those teams finished in the bottom half of the standings last season. Excluding the home-and-homes with Pitt and Louisville, Notre Dame - which finished seventh - is the only team from the top half of the standings that the Mountaineers play at home.
Last season, West Virginia's schedule was the opposite in regard to home and road games in relation to where those opponents finished in the standings. There were home-and-homes with upper-division Pitt and Villanova, as well as Seton Hall, but overall six of the nine home games were against teams from the top half of the standings and six of the nine road games were against schools from the bottom half.
The league will not assign dates to the games until later this summer. West Virginia expects to release its full schedule shortly after that, probably in September.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.