The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 8, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - Come March, little guys often lose out

MORGANTOWN — It has always been fitting that the Big East should decide its basketball championship in Madison Square Garden, for it is certainly a yearly battle of heavyweights for the championship and no one does a title fight like Garden.

It started with the first “real” heavyweight champion at the original Madison Square Garden in 1882 when John L. Sullivan offered Joe Collins $1,000 and half the gate of the sold out Garden if he was standing after four rounds.

Collins, much like West Virginia last year, withstood several knockdowns but somehow hung on to what was simply a “survival victory”.

From that time on the great champions all fought there, from Henry Armstrong to Joe Louis, who made eight successful defenses of his title. In 1942 it was Sugar Ray Robinson defeating Jake LaMotta in a fight that is still talked about today.

In 1951 the aging Louis, 37, came out retirement only be knocked through the ropes by a Rocky Marciano left hook in the eighth round and then, 20 years later, it was Ali-Frazier fighting for $5 million, Frazier winning the first of what would be a series of classics.

We bring this up because when you are in the Garden, the chips are supposed to be on the line, be it in the ring, on the hardwood or even as a competitor in the Westminster Kennel Club championship.

What troubles us today is that the scuttlebutt surrounding this year’s Big East Championships is that 10 teams for certain and most likely 11 of the 18 Big East teams will be selected to take part in the NCAA Championships.

This would seem to be a bit of elitism that the sport does not need.

The argument is that the NCAA Tournament ignores conference affiliations, short of taking the league champion, and tries to take the best teams, drawing a line between best and most deserving.

If you happen to be Marquette, which figures to be West Virginia’s second-round opponent after a first-round scrimmage with Providence, this is nice for they are the only bubble team and probably need only to beat Providence to get in.

But should a team that was unable to finish anywhere near the first half of its conference, a team that has had what it has to consider to be a disappointing season, get in the NCAAs when say the second or third place finisher in the MAC or the Sun Belt has no shot with a 22-victory season of which it is proud.

We decided to ask someone who could sympathize with the underdog, someone who had been there himself — Bob Huggins.

“I was there and we did get left out,” Huggins said. “We got left out with 23 wins, I believe.”

And you know that hurt, in part because many of these teams really have no legitimate chance to create a resume that would pass muster with the selection committee.

“The hard thing is the Akrons of the world have going against them is that they can play Big East people — but they are not going to play them at home. So you never get the advantage of having a home game,” Huggins explained.

“It’s not that Big East people would mind going there. It comes down to more than what people think. It comes down to economics. If we don’t have our 16 games and 2 exhibitions games, 18 home games, how do we generate money?

“I can remember I tried to play Louisville when I was at Akron and Denny [Crum] wrote me a very compassionate letter,” Huggins continued.

“He explained to me that they put 18,000 people in Freedom Hall no matter who they play. At that time, football didn’t draw anybody.

“It was the same at Cincinnati. Football didn’t draw anyone, so we generated all the money in basketball. We had to play X amount of home games. I think we made $225,000 a game. So how do you then go play on the road and give up that money, particularly when you are the so-called bread-winner in the department.”

And if you don’t go to play at Akron, you have almost no chance to lose to Akron, thereby padding your tournament resume at their expense.

“It’s not just people not wanting to go on the road, it comes down to you have to take care of your own family. You’re not going to go because some guy writes you a letter.”

So, you finish 10th in the Big East, are not so much as a contender for your conference championship, and you are five wins from a national title while a mid-major with more wins and maybe having been just a championship game in the conference tournament away from the NCAAs is left out.

Is that fair?

“Turn it around, you’re a team that won 22 games,” said Huggins. ”Now put them in our league. How many are they going to win? You are trying to get the best teams in the tournament.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

  • Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback

    Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
    He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.

    April 13, 2014

  • Moore ‘back at home’ under center

    There are a couple of ways to look at what Logan Moore did this spring after being moved back to quarterback and given a chance to compete for what is a wide open job, as wide open at the end of the spring as it was coming in.
    The first is to say that he didn’t wow Dana Holgorsen to the point that he’s willing to say he’s the leader going into summer drills, but that would be shortsighted considering from where Moore came.

    April 13, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos