WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

WVU v. TCU: Into the wild

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You are looking live at Schollmaier Arena, site of today’s 2 p.m. game on ESPN and the home of the coolest court in the Big 12 — not coolest or even best arena … coolest court. I’d say, “Stop me if you’ve heard this,” but you’d stop me and I wouldn’t be able to say it, but TCU does just about everything right when it comes to things like this.

The school put $72 million into renovations, and it’s the same place but a truly different place, if that makes sense. Part of the overhaul was this court. The frog skin design wins the day, but don’t sleep on the 3-point line. Blood red because horned frogs — these things — shoot blood out of their eyes when threatened.

Please don’t threaten horned frogs, though. That would upset Brandon Parrish, TCU’s senior guard and one of the very best characters in the Big 12. He spent 10 days over the summer on a class trip abroad to South Africa, because he wants to be the next Crocodile Hunter and eventually own a zoo to save species. He removed the tusks from a few rhinos to save them from poachers. He helped put a tracking device on an elephant. He transported two wildebeests to a different reserve. He even treated a cheetah’s injured paw.

Parrish has a passion. He also has a pet bearded dragon named Quavo. His roommate has a husky. Not quite cats and dogs, but you get the point. “I don’t really trust the husky around my bearded,” Parrish said. “He’s my top priority. If my bearded ended up dead because the husky wanted a chew toy, that would not be a good thing for me.”

Quavo is in many ways a perfect pet and a perfect representation of Parrish’s goals.

“When he was really young, he used to eat live crickets,” Parrish said. “I’d put them in there, and he’d eat them immediately. When he got older, they’d be in there chirping, and I was like, ‘OK, so he’s done with crickets.’ Now I feed him meal worms, but he eats vegetables.

“I feed him strawberries here and there, blueberries every so often, but mainly it’s collard greens.”

“I hate it when people fear wildlife because they don’t really know,” he said. “If I can be a bridge between not knowing and learning, my life purpose would be fulfilled. That’s why I want to be the next Crocodile Hunter. I want a chance to be out on that pedestal and touch so many people and help them learn.”

Let me help you learn about today’s game.

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Esa Ahmad stays home

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Let me add this, since a few people have asked: Sure, Ahmad could be flown to Waco to play Monday. But a guy with a bad back that needs rest isn’t primed for that. He’s not flying commercial, and they’re not sending a jet for him.

Back at Mountaineer Field, West Virginia will have its spring game on April 15. That’s a day before Easter, and that’s kind of clever. Many high schools are on spring break the week before or after the rabbit hides the eggs around your house, so that accommodates recruits in need of a campus visit. (Aside: I suspect WVU will travel for at least one practice. Doing so the past few years has been too good for the program and its fans.)

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Bob Huggins is traveling to Texas today. We’ve no reason to think otherwise. He was famously brief in updating his status Thursday on the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference, but I’d imagine he’s mostly tired of talking about it, too. The 63-year-old in his 10th season in charge of West Virginia in turn explained what an active defibrillator meant. “It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong. It’s precautionary. It’s why they put it in there.”

So he’s packing the black pullover — two, I guess, since this is a two-game trip — and aiming for the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tournament. That might go down to the final day of the season, though the Mountaineers are going to get some help Saturday. They’re tied with No. 9 Baylor and still-unranked Iowa State. The Bears play at Hilton tomorrow.

Speaking of precautionary, Huggins isn’t trekking without some apprehension.

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The big question about this big shift

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Elijah Macon reached double figures in points once as a freshman in 2015 and three times last season. He wanted to and was primed to make a leap this season … but Macon looked like a spare part for a while. He was a starter and then he wasn’t. He was injured and didn’t make the trip to Oklahoma State to start Big 12 play. His coach wondered if he’d ever had a player who was injured as often, and then Macon went 0-0-6-0 in his first four conference games.

In the past 11 games, though, he’s been something else. He’s been someone else.

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Out and in?

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We know West Virginia’s new coaches are already recruiting for the future, and we know the new offensive coordinator is also going to call the plays. What was more interesting about the acquisition of Jake Spavital was not what it would do to the organization and execution of the offense or the business of Dana Holgorsen.

What would it mean for recruiting? Because Spavital is known to go after and get big-time talents.

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Incoming!

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This is not a math problem, I promise, but West Virginia does indeed have four seniors on its roster and five players signed to the incoming recruiting class. Someone is going to be displaced from one of these two groups. That’s a problem I can’t solve, so I’ll save the discussion for when it happens.

But about those recruits …

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As is custom, Mr. Smith has a point. Jevon Carter’s past few games — three out of four? — have been terrific, and as time passes, we seem to understand who has West Virginia’s reins in his hands. I’m not even sure there’s a debate about this now.

It seems the Big 12 coaches agree. Sports Illustrated is doing its pre-tournament anonymous scouting reports, and they see what we see … plus a good bit more about the Mountaineers.

The format, if you’re not familiar.

I started with three of the top leagues—the ACC, the Big 12 and the Big Ten—and spoke with three coaches from each league, including head coaches and assistants. In exchange for their anonymity, I asked them to provide their assessments of the top teams in their respective leagues. If you find that these reports are overly negative, that is my doing, not theirs. We already know these teams are good. I wanted to know their vulnerabilities, because that info can mean the difference between a second-round exit and a trip to the Final Four.

The verdict, if you’re curious.

Dunk of the night. Play of the night?

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Hot damn, that’s a good screen cap. As for the popular descriptions you’ll see if you do a Google search today, I mean, it’s a good jam, and Sagaba Konate is no joke, but is this really college basketball’s dunk of the year? I actually thought this play was better.

We can agree on this: Allen’s bad news. He’s 6-foot-11 and we can safely assume his wingspan is even longer, but he has some grace to his game, this soul-snatcher notwithstanding. Seeing as if this is a loaded draft coming up — and you’ll find Grayson Allen before you’ll find Jarrett Allen in some reputable mock drafts — and Texas is so young with a chance to be quite good next season, the really bad news is he might be back for his sophomore season.