By Cam Huffman
It’s been eight days since the West Virginia University basketball team last took the floor, a 72-62 win over Radford, but the Mountaineers will finally be back in action this afternoon when they host Eastern Kentucky at 4 p.m. today in a game that will be televised live on Root Sports.
The Mountaineers have won two straight and five of their last seven, but those victories — VMI, Marshall, Virginia Tech, Oakland and Radford — didn’t exactly come against a who’s who of college basketball powers, and the Oakland and Radford games were much closer than many anticipated.
With a 60-56 loss to Duquesne thrown in the mix, there’s still plenty of reason for Mountaineer fans to worry about the chances of this year’s club continuing the run of five NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons under head coach Bob Huggins.
As Huggins has continued to remind fans and reporters, there’s still plenty of time. Conference play has not even started.
But if WVU wants to head into its first season in the Big 12 with some momentum — it will play its first-ever league game when Oklahoma visits the WVU Coliseum on Saturday — today’s game is a must-win for the 6-5 Mountaineers.
EKU comes into today’s game with a 10-2 overall record with solid wins over teams like Radford (83-75), Western Carolina (72-70) and Towson (71-69 OT).
The Colonels, who will conclude a six-game road trip today, have dropped two of their last three, but one of them came against No. 10 Illinois, and EKU played tough in that contest before falling 66-53 and then losing to North Carolina A&T three days later.
The sharp-shooting Ohio Valley Conference squad is led by a talented backcourt that includes junior guard Glenn Cosey, who’s averaging 16.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, and senior guard Mike DiNunno, who’s shipping in 14.4 points and 4.6 assists per contest.
n n n
Today’s matchup also includes a couple of interesting side stories, beginning with EKU head coach Jeff Neubauer’s return to Morgantown.
Now in his eighth season with the Colonels, the 41-year-old coach was an assistant at WVU under John Beilein for three seasons, culminating with the run to the Elite Eight in 2004-05, which saw WVU upset a Wake Forest team led by Chris Paul in the second round before knocking off Bobby Knight’s Texas Tech squad in the Sweet 16.
The Slidell, La., native, who played his college basketball at LaSalle, was 118-102 through his first seven seasons at EKU.
n n n
Neubauer, though, won’t be the only one returning to a familiar location today.
EKU junior guard Ryan Parsons certainly knows the WVU Coliseum well. He’s the son of WVU’s deputy athletic director Mike Parsons. He grew up in Morgantown and played his high school basketball at Morgantown High, where he was an honorable mention all-state selection and led his team to the state quarterfinals.
“It’s going to be great,” said Parsons. “I grew up in the Coliseum, shooting around there when I was young and when I was in high school, and working out there. I’ll have tons of family and friends there.”
Parsons, who joined the team as a walk-on two years ago, has played in six games, scoring seven points, blocking a shot and grabbing three rebounds.
— E-mail: chuffman
and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.