West Virginia University athletics fans will have plenty of chances this holiday weekend to watch the Mountaineers play on TV. Most of you probably know the Backyard Brawl with Pitt will be broadcast on ESPN2 from Morgantown Friday night at 7 p.m. Not quite as well publicized, and even harder to decipher, is the TV schedule for the 76 Classic in Anaheim, California where the Mountaineer basketball team will be this weekend.
There is a bracket on the 76 Classic website which is about as clear as mud. This much is certain, West Virginia opens the eight team tournament Thanksgiving Day against Long Beach State at 2 p.m. You may want to plan your turkey day festivities with that in mind. Of course you will need to get ESPNU to see that game which could be a deal breaker for some. All 12 games of the classic will be televised on ESPNU, ESPN or ESPN2.
All eight teams will play three games, one each on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. As confusing as the bracket looks to me, I think I have a handle on how West Virginia fits in for the first two days. If the Mountaineers beat Long Beach State they would face the winner of Texas A&M vs Clemson Friday at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN. WVU would play the loser of that game on Friday at 5 p.m. should the Mountaineers lose on Thursday. That game would be on ESPNU and conflict with those fans planning to attend the football game Friday night.
After that, the bracket becomes foreign to me. The other side of the bracket has Minnesota, Butler, Portland and UCLA. If West Virginia wins its first two games my best guess is they will play Sunday night at 10 p.m. on ESPN2 against the undefeated team of the other side of the bracket. When the Mountaineers would play on Sunday at 1-1 or 0-2 is largely speculative. Best thing to do is tune into each West Virginia game to find out their schedule.
Some interesting matchups are possible for the Mountaineers including a potential game with UCLA on Sunday. As big a question as who the Mountaineers will play and when, is if forward Devin Ebanks will play, or even make the trip. As mentioned last week in this space, Ebanks, WVU's sophomore forward projected as a NBA lottery pick next spring, was not dressed, or on the bench, for West Virginia's opener with Loyola last week. Coach Bob Huggins has been tight lipped about Ebanks' absence, but most indications are he will return, but just when is very unclear. Having eight days between the opener and the second game with The Citadel in Charleston Tuesday night has further fueled speculation and rumors.
Ebanks is arguably the most talented Mountaineer, not to be confused with senior DaSean Butler, an undisputed leader and a great talent as well. Make no mistake though, West Virginia's lofty pre season status is largely due to the presence of Ebanks. The Mountaineers should be competitive without Ebanks, but they don't seem likely to contend for the Big East title without him. It will not be good news if he isn't out of the doghouse for the Anaheim trip.