MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Bob Huggins has said time and again over the course of the past few months that the travel woes that his West Virginia basketball team has encountered this season were not something that really could be gauged until after the Mountaineers went through it once.
"You don't know until you do it,'' Huggins said again this week.
Well, actually Huggins did know. Or at least he had a pretty good idea.
That's why, long before West Virginia played its first Big 12 basketball game, Huggins lobbied for some concessions to all the travel. I clearly recall asking him about his reaction to this year's schedule the day it was announced last August. He said little about the competition because he already knew what that would be like.
He talked about the logistics.
"It would have been nice to have had a few of those road games scheduled before we go back to school in January,'' he said at the time. "And making all of those trips separately isn't ideal, either.''
Well, as West Virginia's first season in the league winds down, everyone else is beginning to take notice of the Mountaineers' travel woes. Thankfully, they're going to try to do some things to alleviate the problems.
"There's some things we can do to be mindful of the special challenges they have,'' Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel.
Those "special challenges,'' of course, have everything to do with the Mountaineers facing long trips to every game they play in every sport. When the Mountaineers joined the Big 12, most of the travel talk centered on teams like Texas and Oklahoma and everyone else having to make yearly trips to way-out-of-the-way Morgantown. But that's nothing compared to WVU making almost weekly trips to way-out-of-the-way Texas and Oklahoma, not to mention Kansas and Iowa.
It has worn on the Mountaineers, particularly in basketball. Football coach Dana Holgorsen has continually downplayed the travel, pointing out that the only real difference between traveling to, say, Syracuse or Connecticut is maybe an extra hour or so in the air. The packing, the bus trip to the airport, getting through security, getting to a hotel; all of that is the same. It's just an extra hour or so. No big deal.
And in football it's not that big a deal. Even playing a night game in some faraway locale is no burden because it's a Saturday night game. It's the weekend. What does it matter if you get back an hour or two later in the wee hours of Sunday?
Basketball? It's a real pain. For starters, there are nine Big 12 road trips, not four or five as in football. There are Monday games and Wednesday games. West Virginia had more of those (five) than Saturday road games (four) this season, and every one of them was or will be a 9 p.m. Eastern start.
Consider that a 9 p.m. start is two hours later than most teams in the East begin, then add on that extra hour or so in the air. So instead of getting back to Morgantown at 1 a.m. after a trip for a 7 p.m. game at St. John's, it's 4 a.m. after a visit to somewhere in the Midwest. And that doesn't even include travel delays that at least once this season had the basketball team getting off the bus at the Coliseum at roughly dawn.