The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

January 18, 2010

Few leads safe in today’s college game

MORGANTOWN — The only thing less certain in college basketball than a 10-point lead with 20 minutes to go is a 20-point lead with 10 minutes to go.

The way teams are playing now, and West Virginia is at the head of the class, has gotten to the point that the first 35 minutes of a game are as meaningless as the start in a marathon.

The only reason to come early is to socialize or have a hot dog or two, because game after game is transforming from a runaway to a nail-biter. Warnings ought to be posted in all arenas across America, “Leave Early at Your Own Risk.”

Doesn’t seem to matter who’s playing or where the game is, the early action is nothing but a mirage.

“The runs in this league have been amazing,” Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said during the Big East Conference coaches’ call earlier this week.

He should have known. He possessed a 20-point lead over West Virginia, only to have the Mountaineers take it down to the wire.

“I walk out at halftime up 20 and I’m worried to death,” Brey admitted.

And he really can’t understand why.

“We’d just played the best half of basketball we had played in a few years,” he said.

West Virginia-Syracuse on Saturday turned into the same thing. The Orange had put the game away, reached the point where Red Auerbach would have been lighting up his victory cigar. This one was so far gone that the fat lady was in the second verse when WVU decided it was time to play.

Syracuse already had the bus warming up outside the Coliseum. It was 65-55 when Wes Johnson converted one of two free throws.

The scoreboard clock showed 1:25 to play.

Who knew Truck Bryant still had nine more points in him? Who knew Da’Sean Butler would suddenly come to life, hit a shot, make a steal, feed Dalton Pepper for a layup, feed Bryant, then hit a 3 off Bryant’s assist?

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Bob Herzel
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