MORGANTOWN - Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind while wondering just how much of an advantage it is for West Virginia playing its NCAA tournament opener right up the road.
Granted, the Mountaineers can get to Pittsburgh in roughly the same amount of time it takes Gonzaga just to get through airport security. A lot of West Virginia fans can go to the game without even taking a day off of work. And I may be wrong on this, but I'm thinking there's not a huge Zags alumni base from which to draw in Western Pennsylvania.
Still . . .
How many 'Burghers do you figure hold tickets to an NCAA regional just down the street?
And who are they cheering for?
Put it this way: If there was an NCAA regional at the Coliseum and Pitt was playing there and West Virginia wasn't; well, if you had tickets you bought six months ago, would you give them up or go just to scream your lungs out for Pitt's opponent?
Just wondering. In other
words, don't be shocked if Gonzaga has a lot more support than you might think at first glance.
Pin me to an ant hill with a honey glaze and I still will never concede that there is - or, now, was - this vast conspiracy on the part of the Big East Conference to put the screws to West Virginia as it exited the conference.
Not on the part of game officials in basketball - over whom the Big East has very little control - and not in the seemingly bizarre vote of coaches in either football or basketball.
On the latter point, yes, Geno Smith probably should have been the league's football player of the year and, yes, Kevin Jones probably deserved the honor in basketball. And that neither happened might well have been because a handful of the coaches who vote on such matters did not want to reward a player from a school making such a nasty, public exit from the league. But that's just pettiness, not an orchestrated conspiracy.
(By the way, before the Big East basketball awards were announced, Jae Crowder was named the league's player of the year and was a higher All-America pick than Jones in a fairly reputable listing by The Sporting News. If that group of writers, with no obvious bias toward WVU, can independently choose Crowder over Jones, at the very least it raises the possibility that the Big East vote was based on something concrete.)
And on the matter of officiating, I was nearly swayed to the side of the conspiracy theorists after watching that Big East tournament loss to Connecticut. But in retrospect, I maintain even that was just a horrible job of officiating by one of the three members of that crew. It happens.
The point today, though, is not to sink back into that whole debate, but to note that whether you believe in the great conspiracy or not, it was a very, very good thing when West Virginia walked out of Madison Square Garden last week and its major sports essentially left the Big East in its rear view mirror. Never was that more clear than at the exact moment I walked out for the last time myself.