WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

Three cheers for scandal!

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Saturday night was a night of disappointments. The crowd at the Capital Classic again underwhelmed. The WiFi disappeared, which, personal feelings aside, is a shame because there are a ton of people with an interest in one team or both who would like to get intel from the game during or after it and they cannot.

I say this knowing how it makes me look, but the best live, blow-by-blow analysis came from people who were watching on television far, far away from the Civic Center and its one wireless router.

And is it me, or is Bob Huggins pouring water on this game?

He’s got this weird thing lately where he’s sort of admonishing the media for various thoughts.

“I’ve got to watch what I say because some of you guys really don’t understand $#*% about basketball, so you write stuff that’s ignorant.”

That might be true, but still … and the people who chuckled there probably don’t belong in that room. Or they’re the ones he was referencing. Or both. Probably both.

Anyhow, Huggins really tempered the Capital Classic the day before the game, suggesting Virginia Tech was scheduled to give the team a rival, and then again after it Saturday, when he more or less said the people billing it as a rivalry are too untaught to recognize and appreciate a real rivalry.

Now, this is a game both schools had billed as a rivalry and staged to be one, until they were tested when circumstance intervened and pulled this thing into December. And Huggins didn’t merely say it and move along. He backed it up and said proximity matters and that this game lacks it. He said his players don’t look forward to it, which is not an empty statement, and he presumed Marshall’s act the same.

He’s not incorrect, but it was strange, even if it was in place as a reply to a question about whether the emotion of the game stirred WVU the wrong way in the first half.

More and more, though, I get the feeling WVU would just rather not play this game and would be happier hammering some other non-conference foe or playing a made-for-TV game. That’s not going to happen, but that doesn’t mean the Mountaineers don’t feel that way.

The bummers went beyond the atmosphere, though. We were treated to a $10,000 halfcourt shot, but the contestant underhanded her shot and it fell short of the damned 3-point line. I don’t think she was booed lustily enough.

Worst of all was the lack of the “strongest cheerleader” competition, which had become as much a part of this game as profanities from the stands, excessive whistles on the floor and the winner promptly taking on a losing streak. You know, because the game doesn’t matter.

People looked forward to the show of strength. It invigorated the crowd and recharged it for the final stretch of the game, which in recent years was a wonderful tool because the games were tight and unbelievably overofficiated to test the crowd’s verve. In short, the contest became an undercard and people seriously wrote about it.

The lead photo for this post is Hertz conducting that interview just as WVU was creating critical distance in a rare blowout in the series. It’s a classic.

So in the middle of Saturday’s second half, in the spot usually reserved for the contest, the two teams and their cheerleaders took to the floor and the crowd rose and buzzed. We sent our videographer out to film the spectacle. And then it was just two teams holding their cheerleaders up intermittently and the crowd groaning quizzically. A Marshall envoy told our videographer that WVU didn’t want to do it — and many of us had witnessed an oddly heated conversation among the teams backstage before the game.

Well, that led to this …

The ugly sweaters did not underwhelm, though. A handful of people did it for the game. I met some people — some of you? — afterward who showed off their holiday spirit. That was fun, which is should be.