MORGANTOWN - When West Virginia opens play in the Big East tournament Wednesday afternoon, it won't be the last time the team plays at Madison Square Garden, no matter the result.
But every time the Mountaineers step on the floor this week - whether it be one time or four or anything in between - it could be their last time playing in the Big East tournament.
If there are unintended consequences to bolting the Big East for the Big 12 next season, consider that to be the most depressing. Bob Huggins certainly feels that way.
"I think playing in Madison Square Garden is a thrill for everybody,'' Huggins said. "I know when I played there it was a thrill - going to the Garden, the history. And this is our last time.
"It's not the last time we're going to play in New York obviously. I mean, we're going to try to play [non-conference] games in the Garden. But the Big East tournament, there's not anything like it.''
For West Virginia, the beginning of the end is at noon Wednesday when the No. 8-seeded Mountaineers (19-12) face either No. 9 Connecticut (18-12) or No. 16 DePaul (12-18). Those two play a first-round game at noon today with the winner advancing.
If West Virginia wins Wednesday, it would then face No. 1-seeded and No. 2-ranked Syracuse (30-1) in the Thursday quarterfinals, also at noon. The semifinals of the tournament are Friday night and the finals Saturday night. All of the games WVU would play will be televised by ESPN.
A difficult draw? Certainly. Connecticut is the defending tournament and national champion and Syracuse an almost certain No. 1 seed in this year's NCAA tournament.
But it's pretty much a given that any draw in the Big East is going to be difficult. That's one of the reasons the tournament is so highly regarded, perhaps unlike any other in the country.
"There are tournaments where a couple of teams will have [fans],'' Huggins said. "Like when I was at Cincinnati it was Cincinnati and Louisville and the rest of the teams didn't bring a whole lot of people. This is different.
"They tell me that Friday night is the hardest ticket in New York all year. With everything that goes on in New York, Friday night's the hardest ticket. For something to captivate the city of New York like that, it's a special deal.''
It has not always been that special for West Virginia, of course. The Mountaineers have been in the Big East since 1995-96 and until the 2005 tournament won just one game.
But since that 2005 team raced into the finals before losing to Syracuse, WVU is 11-6 in the event and won it for the first time in 2010. Only twice in the last seven years have the Mountaineers been ousted in their first tournament game.