Great weekend to be a Mountaineer
I believe it was West Virginia University play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi who coined the phrase, "It's a great day to be a Mountaineer, wherever you may be." That was certainly the case last weekend for West Virginia fans as it was truly a great weekend to be a Mountaineer fan. Too bad Tiger Woods isn't a Mountaineer fan. More on that later.
The football team beat Pitt on a last second Tyler Bitancurt field goal Friday night. The men's basketball team defeated Long Beach State, Texas A&M and Portland to claim the 76 Classic championship.
The win over Pitt will not erase all of the disappointment incurred this football season, but certainly will help. Not everyone will agree that the season has been disappointing as the team travels to Rutgers this Saturday with an 8-3 record, but when you look at the losses, factor the type of mistakes and events which occurred to cause those results, then a debate can be had. A win at Rutgers Saturday would give WVU a 9-3 record going into a bowl game and a good shot for 10 wins. Good stuff for a team which seemed headed in the wrong direction just a few games ago.
Bowl destinations will be a hot topic till the matchups are determined this weekend. The winner of the Pittsburgh Cincinnati game Saturday will get the Big East's automatic BCS bowl bid. If the Bearcats win, they would be 12-0 and hoping for an upset of Texas to get a shot at the national title. A Pitt win would create a tie for the Big East championship that they would win, because of the head to head win.
How all this plays out for West Virginia is unclear. The Gator Bowl, which is ending its affiliation with the Big East after this season, has the option of picking a Big East team after the BCS spots are filled. They seem interested in the Mountaineers regardless of this weekend's results. That is simply because Mountaineer fans travel and sell many tickets. Other Big East teams don't sell nearly as many tickets as the Mountaineers do.
The Pitt vs. Cincinnati game will have plenty of sub plots. Bearcat Coach Brian Kelly is said to be a top candidate for the now vacant Notre Dame head coaching job. Could be lots of distractions this week.
Will he take it if it is offered?
When will it be offered?
This could get really good if the Bearcats lose, finish 11-1, don't get an at large BCS bid and WVU gets the Gator Bowl. In that scenario Kelly will be looking to bolt. Speculation is the Gator Bowl wants WVU no matter what, but would they pass on an 11-1 Cincinnati, especially if WVU loses to Rutgers? Seems unlikely to me, but bears watching.
Bob Huggins' basketball team bears watching as well. Off to a 5-0 start, the WVU roundballers appear set to prove they are worthy of their Top 10 ranking. In the 76 Classic they played hard and overpowered Long Beach State in the first round and upstart Portland in the final. West Virginia outlasted a good Texas A&M team in the semi-finals. If you listen to Huggins, you would come away thinking the team played lousy.
I'm not sure how good this team is. Devin Ebanks returned to the court after missing three games for "personal" reasons. With Ebanks and tournament MVP, Da'Sean Butler, in the line-up this team is formidable. Forward Kevin Jones has made major strides with his strength and has developed a pretty effective outside shot.
The team is rich in forwards and thin at point guard. Joe Mazzulla did some spot duty at the point in the tournament and it is clear he hasn't fully recovered from shoulder surgery. In fact, the left hander is shooting free throws right-handed and was seen wincing in pain at times on the court. It is unclear if the hard nosed junior's condition will improve, or if he will be forced to finish his career on grit.
One other thing became apparent over the weekend too, and that is the Big East Basketball Conference is alive and well. Holiday tournaments over the weekend had numerous Big East teams in the finals and Syracuse knocked off North Carolina a week earlier. It will take a very good team in the Big East to remain in the Top 10 this year.
Oh, and about Tiger Woods. Watching the WVU - A&M game I received a text alert that Woods had been seriously injured in a car accident. A quick trip to the internet cast a lot of doubt that the injuries were serious. As news has developed since Friday's 2:30 a.m. incident, even more doubt has been cast about what happened. Woods, sober by all accounts, with perhaps the greatest hand eye coordination on the planet, can't drive his Escalade out of his driveway without first hitting a fire hydrant and then a tree?