West Virginia’s John Beilein is a cautiously optimistic basketball coach.

He’ll tell you his 4-0 start in Big East play means little, only that it means that WVU can’t lose 12 conference games now.

I will say this, if WVU plays like it did against Marquette Saturday, it’ll be hard for anybody in the Big East to knock off the Mountaineers.

That’s the thing about this team. On some nights, it looks like a national championship team. Other nights, it looks mediocre at best.

The longball is like a pitbull. It’s your best friend one night and it’ll bite your arm off the next.

It was WVU’s friend Saturday, when the Mountaineers made an unbelievable 20-of-42, a school and conference record.

As good as the Mountaineers are, the team’s real strength is experience.

Starters Jo Herber, Kevin Pittsnogle and J.D. Collins have played in 110 games at WVU. Mike Gansey is a four-year starter for all intents and purposes, starting at St. Bonaventure for two years before transferring to WVU, where he has started for two years.

That’s a rarity in big-time basketball.

And it’s the strength of this team.

The team is picking up national attention, too. ESPN.com lists its top 16 and it’s divided into seeds, a la the national tournament. WVU is a No. 3 seed.

By the way, quietly lost in all the attention is that Pittsnogle surpassed the 200 mark for career threes. With 201, he passed the previous school record of 200 set by Chris Leonard.

Of course, Pat Beilein passed that mark last week and now has 208 for his career.

While the basketball team continues to roll — 10 wins in a row and counting — the respect keeps pouring in for the Mountaineer football team.

Fresh off a 38-35 Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia, at least one newspaper has thrown its No. 1 vote to the Mountaineers.

Kirk Bohls, writing in the Austin American-Statesman, home of national champion Texas, no less, writes, “West Virginia has everything a team needs to stake its claim to No. 1.”

“A good head coach. Rich Rodriguez is quietly building a monster in Morgantown. Did you see his gutsy fake punt call to seal the win over Georgia?”

He also cites quarterback Pat White, running back Steve Slaton, top receivers, a winnable schedule and less competition (“West Virginia is easily the class of the Big East,” he writes) as reasons WVU should start the year at No. 1.

His top four, after WVU, are LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Florida.

Wondering if WVU Tech’s move to NAIA makes financial sense?

On the surface, you’d have to think no.

After all, NAIA basketball power Mountain State has taken trips to California, Montana and Georgia in the last few years.

But word is, the Golden Bears are headed to the Mid-South Conference, home of basketball powers like Georgetown, Lindsey Wilson and the Cumberlands.

Most of those teams also have football programs, meaning the trips will be into Kentucky and Tennessee for conference action.

Also, with the less stringent academic requirements, the Golden Bears will be able to recruit better athletes.

As far as fielding competitive teams, Tech should get better overnight.

— E-mail: demorrison@


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