WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

Friday Feedback

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Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which was on the jorts boat seven summers ago.  (The comments!) I was thinking, and by that I mean obsessing, about what I’m going to write about and what we’re going to talk about in these next few weeks. Then I remembered the high likelihood of postseason baseball, which we’ve never entertained here. (Critical update: Our plan is to use a freelancer.)

It’s a whole new world, I guess, and it’s a quality way to fill some of the gap between now and whatever it is we do during the summer months before the Big 12’s media days more or less end our offseason. I think West Virginia will make a NCAA regional, but I’m not completely confident that’s the case regardless of what happens in this weekend’s three-game series and then at the Big 12 tournament. It is, at the minimum, interesting.

For example, Michael Grove will not pitch this weekend, and if the Mountaineers get swept at Texas, where the Longhorns are 25-7, then they finish in seventh place in the standings and are the No. 7 seed in the eight-team tournament. If that’s followed by an 0-2 — let’s speculate and say that’s a loss to the No. 2 seed Texas Tech and then a loss to maybe the No. 3 Oklahoma or the No. 6 Texas in the elimination game — well, then you’re looking at a team that finished in seventh place and lost five in a row to end the season. It would finish 31-25 overall and, counting the tournament, 11-15 in conference play. The RPI would be in the low 20s and the strength of schedule would be in the same neighborhood.

Certainly, the NCAA could be given pause. Thirty-one automatic bids go to conference champions. Thirty-four at-large invitations are available for the rest of the country.

So this is another big weekend for a team that’s played in, what, four of them already this season? Five? And a lot of these players remember walking off the field after an extra-innings loss to TCU in the Big 12 title game last year optimistic about an at-large bid. They know nothing is guaranteed.

Jackson Sigman is close to being the exception.

A month ago, the sidearm senior was a reliever with a losing record and an ERA two stitches below 8.00. He bottomed out in a weekend series at Kansas State, and in a Sunday outing, he allowed three home runs in 15 pitches. He and pitching coach Derek Matlock went to the lab, changed his stance, lowered his upper body and repositioned his arm. Since then? Darn near lights out: Nine appearances, 19 2/3 innings, three earned runs and eight hits allowed, 23 strikeouts and one home run. He’s pitched in 31 of 51 games, which ranks No. 4 nationally, and he’s at home this weekend.

West Virginia’s final regular-season games are on the road against the University of Texas, and Sigman figures to throw plenty of pitches at Disch-Falk Field, the home of the Longhorns and the place where Sigman, an Austin, Texas, product, threw that fateful pitch.

“Growing up in Austin, that school was a big part of my life,” Sigman said. “Both of my parents are grads. My mom’s still a teacher there. The first time I ever threw sidearm was at that field in a fall game against some other high school team. Looking back on it, I never thought my regular-season career would end there.

“But it’s kind of cool thinking my first outing ever as a sidearm pitcher was there and my last regular-season outing is going to be in my hometown, and my family’s going to be there in the stadium where I started doing this.”

Sigman is the ever-ready reliever who’s made a school-record 31 appearances in 51 games for the Mountaineers (31-20, 11-10 Big 12). He ranks No. 4 nationally in appearances, and he’s 4-4 with a 4.96 ERA and 61 strikeouts and 17 walks in 49 innings.

“He’s so valuable for us,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said, predicting Sigman could pitch five or six more times in the regular season and next weekend’s double-elimination Big 12 tournament. “I’m super proud of the adjustment he made in the middle of this season.”

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, think things through.

ML said:

Devastating news about Skyler.

I sense sarcasm. I was surprised Howard was waived so quickly. He was there for a rookie mini-camp. Seattle has Russ Wilson and Trevone Boykin, who has some legal problems to deal with, and nobody else. Howard was competing with Friend of the Blog Jake Heaps and Michael Birdsong. Heaps was with the team last season, first cut late in the preseason, later signed to the practice squad and then cut from there. Birdsong was a tryout guy, which is not the same as an undrafted free agent. He didn’t stick, but he did impress. The Seattle Times noted Seahawks coach Pete Carroll “had not sounded too glowing about (Howard’s) performance in the camp, noting that tryout quarterback Michael Birdsong had graded out the best of the three QBs who took part.” But Seattle saw enough of Howard and decided to let him go, and Howard cleared waivers, which makes him a free agent again. By the way, Heaps played at BYU, Kansas and Miami, Birdsong at JMU, Marshall and Tennessee Tech and Howard at Stephen F. Austin (kinda), Riverside City College and WVU. Football never gives up on quarterback prospects. 

And neither does Bruce Irvin.

Raiders v. Seahawks in the last week of the preseason, by the way … 

Mack said:

I don’t know Chris Anderson from Adam . . . but I’ve followed his Twitter at various times in the past (usually between the end of the football season and signing day), and he’s very good at what he does. It’s not a surprise that when all of the dust settles on the market for WVU recruiting coverage that he seems to be the one still standing. And, to be clear, he contributes content to the Gazette, right?

WVU recruiting is a competitive market. There are the three major sites and some ancillary outlets, as well, and the football program is wise to facilitate. And yes, Chris has an arrangement with our newspaper for weekly features and breaking news. Also, Adam Anderson drives Grave Digger these days, I believe. 

StraightOuttaNorthCentral said:

Profits are down at ESPN because an ever increasing number of people are cutting the cord and cable providers are losing subscribers. Pretty much no other reason. Not to say that the “all LaVar and Lonzo Ball coverage all the time” thing isn’t annoying. It clearly is. But whether the coverage is there or not has no significant effect on ESPN’s bottom line either way.

I thought it was because of the liberal bias??? But I do think an increasing segment of the audience has a refined palette and, as such, a distaste for some ploys and programming. And when consumers are force-fed those ploys and that programming, people grab the remote. Or the telephone. If ESPN were indispensable, we wouldn’t know what a “cord-cutter” was.

Dino said: 

Hey Mike, since you touched on the sphere of business that surrounds college football……… I’ve read and heard a couple of National Media (Finebaum & Dodd) and a couple of Local Media (Vingle & Taylor) guys talking, and predicting possiblities and solutions about ‘issues’ concerning the stability of the Big XII Conference going forward. One I read, Paul Finebaum, goes as far to says the conference is going to break-up.

You got anything on that you want to share????

Not really. I’ll cover it rather than predict it. I think it’s safe to say, though, that things will change within the next decade. The variables involved in conference alignment are too volatile, and schools and conferences alike are extremely proactive and profit-driven. 

Sid Brockman said:

I agree the “Big XII won’t survive!” hot-take is overblown. Again, the teams in this conference don’t play football the way the NFL does, so there won’t be as many draftees. Track-meet types that aren’t particularly big or strong won’t get a hard look from scouts. Measurables matter to them and the Big XII produces a lot of smallish, fast-but-not-elite-40-time players.

Also, wasn’t it like five years ago everyone said the same thing about the Big Ten? The teams were slow, the big names (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State) were struggling and everyone was wondering what would happen. A few coaching hires can make all the difference in perception.

It’s cyclical. All of it is. The media’s cycle requires less time to spin around and get going again than the sport’s cycle requires. A theme that was popular or compelling once is oftentimes rushed into the cycle again.

ML said:

Eventually, virtually all news and sports writers will be “stringers.” Not so much because they’ll act as traditional stringers, but because their work will have multiple buyers, and only the best few will provide content. Print display ads aren’t going to foot the hotel bills and salaries of the future. The money’s in video advertising, and in that respect, ESPN is gonna be just fine. The papers that are growing and doing well these days have massive video production capabilities, and that’s where their resources are going. Mike’s gonna be on TV a lot in 10 or so years if he continues his current pursuits… So stick with light beers, MC.

I’m happy about Crest. Yes, he’s too small to be big and too big to be fast and too fast to be strong and too mobile to be accurate and too accurate to be a damn safety, but still, a guy like that has value. Kids that keep their heads up and their grades up, and show up, almost always make a meaningful contribution as upper classmen. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s our starting qb in 2018. Stranger things have happened.

“Eventually” is a good word. It’s not immediate. I think there are still many publications — newspapers, magazines, web sites — that want the name recognition of a particular writer. That’s why “columnists” and tweets with COLUMN: exist. “Oh, he wrote a column? His columns are good.” At least, I think that’s the thinking, but I also think the reality is readers want opinion more than information, and the best writers are more invested in explaining how and why things happened rather than what happened. Anyhow, those publications can and do benefit from that name recognition. That used to be a local phenomenon, and I think the jury is still out as to whether that can exist, thrive or flourish nationally. But for now, publishers enjoy the recognition — and the competence! — of an individual under the company umbrella. It’s “their” guy or gal, and that can provide prestige. The other part to consider is whether sports writers want to be stringers. Being a contracted employee is different when it comes to things like insurance, benefits, taxes, retirement plans, so on and so forth. Say sports writers don’t want to be stringers. What are they willing to surrender to get what they want? I also think video advertising is valuable, but it’s part of the overall digital revenue pool. You have aps, podcasts, web pages, chats, on and on. Native advertising is simple and effective for the Internet, which is where we’re all headed, right? As for the present, if you ask me, the immediate and underrated conflict is travel. There’s a cost-benefit scenario to weigh in sending me to Ames, Iowa, for a noon game on a Saturday and there’s a separate scenario for sending me to Waco, Texas, for a 9 p.m. game on a Monday night and turning in 800 words of play-by-play with no quotes when the buzzer sounds. I can update that for the web, but we’re still delivering newspapers with the original story. Bad investment, you say? OK, use a stringer. The same time constraints exist, and that stringer isn’t getting a day-after story or taking everything in to add to the collective experience of the season, which ultimately benefits the newspaper with columns, story ideas, analysis and the like. Use the AP? Same issues with additional stories and expertise, and the newspaper story is going to be about the team that won. Unless WVU goes undefeated on the road, you’re going to give your readers a handful of stories about the other team. 

BobbyHeenan said:

With Smothers out that opens up some reps for Crest. I can’t help but think these things may intertwine.

I look for Sills and Jennings to nab most of the reps at IR, but after that I think Crest has as good a chance as he’s ever had to see meaningful minutes there.

I think Crest is a good person, but I’m not optimistic about him making a splash this season. We’ll see how invested or interested he is. He said all the right things last season, and they he did something different than what he said. He’s also essentially a freshman. He wasn’t very high up the ladder as it was, but he dropped down whatever rungs he’d passed in his first three years on campus. He’s way behind at whatever position he’ll play. He’s not going to be a quarterback or a running back, he’s basically new to safety and he couldn’t get his head above water at receiver before, when WVU could have used some receivers.  

I love you, Doug! said:

Our punt returner returns to return punts!

Oh, man. I forgot about that. Remember Crestamania? He was an inextricable part of our preseason conversations.

Mack said:

It is important to remember in that headlining photo that Crest is alleged to have an injured shoulder… which clearly affected the grip on the ball. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Kinda-sorta. He “jacked up” his shoulder in 2014. That thromble in the photo is from the first game last season. I don’t think he was still hurt or hurting in that game.

netbros said:

Wondering if the recently reported less-than-desirable 922 APR score and the departures of Smothers and Angus are unrelated.

Possible. If they weren’t eligible, which is a fair guess, then that dinged the APR, but running kids off is a bad idea. Leaving doesn’t help the score, and if they were ineligible and left, that’s double trouble. Here’s how the NCAA calculates the APR: “Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one retention point for staying in school and one eligibility point for being academically eligible. A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by one thousand to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate score.”

brian said:

Hate to be negative, but taking a kid (Thrift) who hasn’t played football at this level yet and will only play for one year really shows how desperate WVU is for defensive lineman.

I’d like to know the story. WVU does a lot of homework on cases like these, so we can assume he’s not a bad apple. The affiliation with Lackawanna has to be comforting, too. It’s also low-risk as a two-year investment. I’ve had multiple WVU people tell me Thrift has to sit, but I do believe the team could push for his immediate eligibility. This is Waiver U., after all. 

Wayward Eer said:

I just saw on cbssportsline, credited to 247sports, a listing of the best offensive skill position “trifecta”. They listed the Mounties as number 5, with Grier, Crawford and White. The QB hype is really in full force. I hope they are right. Oklahoma State was number 1 by the way.

N0. 5 in the Big 12?

Dino said:

You know, based solely on the past performance of these “oversite” committees, I’m wondering if they have ever in the history of their existence got out in front of an issue…….. appears to me they are always chasing the horses that got out of the barn simply because they never think to close the barn door BEFORE the horses walk out through that door.
Hell, these guys aren’t providing “over site”, these guys are providing “hindsight”……… and if the NCAA cannot determine just how many ‘staffers’ are working for every program under their jurisdiction that’s a sad state of affairs.

Sorry…….but sometimes one just has to freakin’ vent.

I’ve no problem with this. It’s apt.

Mack said:

I would imagine that adding staff members helps with breaking down film and putting it in a digestible format for the “real” coaches more than anything else. You can’t tell me that having 30 coaches involved during the actual game helps anything.

Exactly. But there are recruiting advantages, because everything is about recruiting, and competitive concerns. Schools are using the analysts, and the more people assigned to specific tasks means the creation of more focused and actionable information. Additionally, a fired head coach is happy to work as an analyst at Some Power 5 School for $175,000 than as a coordinator at a MAC school for $150,000 (or even $200,000). Major programs are also hiring analysts and keeping them on the shelf for indoctrination for future openings. Neither is the intent.

SheikYbuti said:

It’s terrific about the Blue & Gold News. Greg & Bob had a vision back in the day, and they saw it through to fruition. They told me the story once about how Jack Fleming upbraided them because they didn’t call it the “Gold & Blue” News. According to Jack (and I would never doubt Jack), “Blue & Gold are Pitt colors.” Amen. But, by any colors, the B&G News has been a quality publication, and I’m so glad to see it’s going to stick around.

Survive and advance.

JAL said:

I thought a major goal of defense was to stop the offense player from making moves. If you do that without touching him it should be legal. If the offense player instigates contact the foul should on him.

We forget the NCAA is desperate to add offense to the game. We’ve seen a lot of alterations the past few years, and it really hasn’t affected defense that much. It’s helped offense slightly and I would say almost imperceptibly. Rules about what happens on the ball don’t address whether players make open shots or free throws or know how to run offense.

The 25314 said:

I think a defender has as much right to any spot on the floor (including the restricted zone) as an offensive player and the player, offensive or defensive, who creates contact with an established opponent should be called for a foul. Of course, I also think all baskets should be worth 2 points and there shouldn’t be a shot clock.

Simple rules allow for creativity and unique styles to flourish. All the new rules are an attempt to homogenize the style of play.

Bingo. Bingo. I hope and have to think this hits them over the head sooner or later. Here’s a question: Is the star power in college basketball better on the floor than it is on the sideline?

Sid Brockman said:

I hope the video review of block/charge call doesn’t pass, or get ready for the last two minutes to take 45 of real time, while the officials still get the call wrong.

I’m with you here, too, except that I think they’ve screwed with the rule so much the past few years that officials don’t know what to do in the moment. So, in that light, I can understand this provision. But I do not want to see it. 

netbros said:

I thought there was a move afoot to shorten the amount of time it takes to play games. The block/charge 2-minute review is definitely counter to that.

I wonder if Huggins will stick with the full court press once Carter is gone. I could see him reverting to a trapping, half-court style. Just when the other members of the Big 12 are getting used to the press you change things up again.

Interesting thought about Carter. Hard to find a player like that and have him ready in the fall of 2018. Let’s see what happens to the Nate Adrian role this season. Like Carter, it’s hard to find someone who can do what Adrian did. If a successor falls short this season and Huggins makes alterations, we might have some insight for life without Carter. 

Wayne said:

If both of these players are returning, any thoughts on who is leaving or not qualifying? Otherwise we’re one over, right?

I just want to say I didn’t write or report the Carter note, and there’s still some ambiguity in there. I don’t know Carter’s proximity to graduation. It’s conceivable he needs three credits and he’s getting them done now. There’s really nothing stopping him from taking classes and going pro, whether in the NBA or overseas. The same holds true for Elijah Macon, although we know he graduated. So I do not want to have you think I said Carter and Macon will both be on the 2017-18 team. I do not know that to be true, and I believe this needs to be reported more. But you’re right in thinking that if both come back for their senior seasons, then the Mountaineers will have promised scholarships to 14 players, which is one over the maximum. Someone has to go. I’m not going to guess who that might be.

netbros said:

Just throwing this out there. I wonder if Elijah, having graduated, will play as a walk-on next season while paying his own tuition for graduate school.

Noble idea, but I do not expect that happening. Grad school isn’t cheap.

Oklahoma Mountaineer said:

Mike, as there are more players than scholarships, at what point does someone get asked to leave or the scholarship pulled? I’m assuming August, but I’m hopeful the plan comes out sooner than that….

This is a murky area. Huggins is adamant that he never makes players leave, and this WVU roster doesn’t have a player who cannot play at this level and could be encouraged to find playing time elsewhere. That’s not been the case in the past. But a transaction may be needed, and it would have to be soon. The most popular date for summer enrollment for freshmen is in June. I don’t see this dragging on much longer.

Wayward Eer said:

As we move to more pay per view, streaming events, etc… I think that the value of the product gets put into a different lens. No longer is the traditional “television market” size the king of establishing a team/regions value to a conference. To me it becomes more of a measure of the passion of the respective fan base which bodes well for the Texas, Oklahoma’s and even WVU’s of the world. The other measure becomes more about the alumni/fan base of a school regardless of their regional concentration. In my mind this brings more value to the BYU’s of the world. Does that factor into the next round of expansion, I think it will play a part. Interesting times as it relates to the world of sports product distribution.

And eight years ago, you wouldn’t have bought this as an explanation. But it’s extremely reasonable today.

Sid Brockman said:

I agree with Wayward. In the future, if we ever get to actually pick the content we want (not channels, content), then the Big 12 model actually could make some sense. Having teams control their individual Tier 3 rights could make it easier for the schools to sell to whoever wants to stream content. That stands in opposition to the SEC/ACC/Big Ten Networks, who are focused on markets. I would argue Rutgers can really only get 10% or less of the eyeballs in NYC. Those streaming services get revenue from the specific viewers, not markets. So, short story long, I can squint and see where the “traditional” models get left way behind in revenue if people aren’t actually watching their content.

Now, this is where we have some deep conversations. Will WVU stick with IMG College, or some other Tier 3 company, or will the operations come back in house? There’s a benefit to having a company handle the media rights, but in the future, there could be greater value in independence. We probably can’t predict or grasp what it might look like, though. Then again, the traditional television model isn’t going to vanish, and I don’t know that, say, Netflix is going to pay WVU $25 million, whereas the Fox/ESPN combination does and will through 2024-25. Even if we think the annual payouts might dip, do we think WVU is going to be high enough on the priority list for a streaming service to pay WVU a superior or similar amount? I think there’s a place for a streaming service to partner with a cable company. “Saturday’s game will be televised by ESPN2 and streamed on Hulu.”

AreYouSerious? said:

Rumored NBA draft pick? Mike’s cheerleader glasses are showing on this one. Loved watching Nate hustle for 4 years at WVU but he told MetroNews last month he was moving on from basketball because of his left shoulder issue. Even a healthy Nate wouldn’t have been picked in the draft. C’mon, man. But he’ll do well with that finance degree and guest appearances on Fly Rod Chronicles.

No, I was not serious. I was referencing a story that reported Adrian was generating some “buzz” in NBA circles. Keep up.

Mack said:

Do you think Adrian would’ve gotten drafted higher or lower than rumored first round pick Ales Chan?

When I was at another newspaper, I wrote a large story on Chan the year he was supposed to be drafted. It was excellent, if I must say so myself, and we decided to run it the day of the draft. But I was also, like, 25 and naive and charmed by the agent. We held the front page of the sports section and the page the story jumped to on the night of the draft so we could plug in where he was drafted. He was not drafted. Justin Jackson was laying out the section that night, and he’d insisted all week that Chan would not be drafted and that I was wasting his time. He’s still mad about it, I promise you. 

SheikYbuti said:

You just can’t go into a store and buy authentic cutoffs like that off the shelf. Not even in the headband section.

No you can’t, and I’m not sure why.

ML said:

Say what you will about them Daisies, but that’s one helluva largemouth.

Should not go unnoticed.

Oklahoma Mountaineer said:

Not sure who his doctor is, but to be out of a sling and on the water this quickly after labrum surgery is unreal. I’m still healing up from mine and I’ve been told I’m way ahead of schedule…..and I couldn’t be doing that yet…….and my surgery was in February.

I mean, it is Nate Adrian.

Diddybops said:

Nate Adrian is a legend, he could drown that fish…

Competitive finish this week.

pknocker40 said:

Are those spanx?

Spanx and Miller Lite? I don’t think so.

Rugger said:

I see a new fashion trend….freshly pocket-knife cut blue jeans that smell like large mouth bass……$400…Bluejean Baller Brand.

Enjoy the weekend!