MORGANTOWN - Gone are the days when West Virginia's basketball team might look at its schedule and see the daunting task of facing, say, Syracuse and Connecticut in back-to-back games.
News flash, though: Life in the Big 12 isn't going to be much different.
WVU and the Big 12 released the league's men's basketball schedules Thursday, and the Mountaineers' slate doesn't seem much different than it did in the Big East.
For instance, the first three Big 12 games beginning in January are home games with Oklahoma and Kansas State sandwiched around a trip to Texas. Back-to-back Saturday home games later on are broken up only by a home game against Kansas, last year's national runner-up and the second winningest program of all time. Two of the last three games of the regular season are on the road at Kansas and Oklahoma.
But when Bob Huggins looks at that same schedule, he doesn't really see those particular difficult stretches. He sees an entire league schedule full of challenges.
"The thing about the Big East was it was a great conference, maybe the best in history,'' Huggins said. "But top to bottom I think the Big 12 is better.''
Indeed, while the Big East was brutal at the top - and that top sometimes stretched as far as 10 or 12 teams in the 16-team league - there were also softer spots. West Virginia seldom, if ever, lost to DePaul, Providence, Rutgers or South Florida.
Huggins spent a year in the Big 12, and from just that short stint when he revived the fortunes at Kansas State, he knows there are no soft games.
"When you take it all into account, from top to bottom, the Big 12 is just harder,'' Huggins said.
West Virginia's inaugural Big 12 game will be Saturday, Jan. 5 at home against Oklahoma. That's followed four days later by a trip to Texas and then three days after that a return home to play Kansas State.
There are, of course, home and road games against each of the Big 12's nine other schools, interrupted in the new year only by a Jan. 19 trip to Purdue for a non-conference game.
There are also significant non-league tests earlier in the season with the midnight opener against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., the night of Nov. 12, a three-game Old Spice tournament in Orlando over Thanksgiving and the Dec. 15 game in Brooklyn against John Beilein and Michigan.
The Marshall game is Dec. 5 and there's a visit from Virginia Tech three days later.
Along with the schedule, the Big 12 also announced television arrangements and a staggering 19 WVU games will be on national television on one of the ESPN networks or CBS.
"What's amazing is the number of national TV games,'' Huggins said, and then cracked, "I think they just like seeing me.''
All 31 games will be televised at least on a regional basis (most on Root Sports or the Big 12 Network), as will the Nov. 6 exhibition game against Glenville State.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
West Virginia 2012-13 men's basketball schedule
Nov. 6 Glenville State (exhibition)
Nov. 12 at Gonzaga
Nov. 22 vs. Marist, at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Nov. 23 TBD, at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Nov. 25 TBD, at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Nov. 29 VMI
Dec. 5 vs. Marshall, at Charleston
Dec. 8 Virginia Tech
Dec. 11 at Duquesne
Dec. 15 vs. Michigan, at Brooklyn, N.Y.