Chip Shots

by Jim Buzzerd

Not done yet

Last week you read it here that barring a national championship run, the West Virginia University Basketball Team would lose 20 games for the first time since 2002. Things have changed since then. Prior to the beginning of last week’s Big 12 Basketball Tournament it was learned that head coach Bob Huggins had committed the Mountaineers to the College Basketball Invitational tournament. If you’re unfamiliar with the CBI, you’re not alone. This is a pay for play tournament, which has only been around for 11 seasons, 2019 being its 12th season.

As best as I can determine the 16-team field is comprised of schools failing to make the NCAA and NIT fields. A winning record is not required, but a $50,000 entry fee is necessary. For an extra 40K you can buy yourself a home game, which WVU has done. There is no way to sugarcoat this. Playing in the CBI is not an honor, nor is it prestigious. Some will say it reeks of desperation. I’m not going to research why 16 teams for the last 11 years have decided to pay to be in this event, but I doubt desperation is a big reason.

For the Mountaineers, playing more games in March just makes sense considering the turbulent season they had. Over the final three weeks of the season after Esa Ahmad and Wesley Harris were dismissed and Beetle Bolden departed, the Mountaineers, with four first year players in the starting lineup, took on a new persona. And it was a positive one. Last week the Mountaineers knocked off Oklahoma and Texas Tech in the conference tournament, but ran out of gas in an 88-74 loss to Kansas in the semi-final.

A 4-3 record down the stretch takes on some significance when you consider three of the wins came against NCAA tournament teams. Also consider the way the team was playing six weeks ago compared to the current performance, and one can gain at least a little appreciation for Huggins wanting to keep this group on the court for more games, even if it means buying into a tournament. Obviously the hope is success in this tournament will translate to more success next season. A pessimist will say, “Yeah, but what if they lose to a no-name?”

In this case the no name is Grand Canyon University. GCU may not be a household name, but their head coach is Dan Majerle, who NBA followers should recognize for his career with the Phoenix Suns. Majerle has been at the Phoenix campus for five seasons and has already amassed 103 wins. One rating service has WVU at 95th nationally and GCU 105th, so this may very well be a competitive game.  Actually, with team ratings for the field ranging from 95 to 308 neither of these two teams seems to have received a favorable first round draw.

There will be no live television for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. tip at the Coliseum, but the game will be streamed live on wvu.sports.com. No promises, but those with Roku, or Apple TV devices may find the game on those streaming platforms.

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