MORGANTOWN - Bob Huggins has no problem at all facing Marshall each year. In fact, had he had the opportunity, he would have loved to have played the Thundering Herd as a player at West Virginia.
He missed the game by a year, having finished his playing career in the winter of 1977, roughly a year before the two schools resumed a series that had been dormant for nearly half a century.
That doesn't mean, however, that Huggins is particularly enthralled about Wednesday night's annual matchup between the teams at the Charleston Civic Center. The timing just isn't right, and that has nothing to do with Marshall's four-game win streak or the Herd's 13-4 record.
"I think playing the Marshall game in the middle of the season is a disaster,'' Huggins said. "It doesn't help either team.''
Well, the fact is it seems to help Marshall even less, no matter who wins the annual grudge match.
West Virginia (13-5) interrupts its Big East schedule for Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. game. Marshall takes pause from its Conference USA slate. For each, it is the only non-conference game on their respective schedules over the final two months of the season.
WVU played its last non-conference game Dec. 23 and then began an 18-game Big East schedule. Marshall faced Akron on New Year's Day and then began its 16-game C-USA slate.
Once upon a time, this was a December institution. The first game after that nearly 50-year break was squeezed in during late February, but then between 1978 and 1992, the teams played before the New Year every season but one, usually on alternating home courts. But since then, the game has been in Charleston in the middle of each team's conference schedule in all but the 1996-97 season.
What Huggins and just about every other coach on either side of the matchup has lamented during those years when the game was placed in January (and occasionally February) is that it takes both teams out of the conference flow. Now, sometimes that can be a good thing if a team needs a break, but this game is anything but a break.
It is emotional, physical and usually exhausting. And there are repercussions.