Monday, February 7, 2000
by Will Stewart
The Big East released its menís basketball divisional alignments last week, and as usual, Hokie fans were left feeling a bit shafted. The long-awaited alignments were mostly disappointing for Tech fans, but before commenting on that, letís take a look at the new setup. At this point, both divisions are unnamed:
This alignment has a few positives but plenty of negatives for the Hokies.
First, the positives: Connecticut is the defending national champions in menís basketball and a bona fide marquee name, so it will be great to have the Huskies visiting Cassell Coliseum every year, although it would give ESPNís Charlie Steiner, who frequently calls the Hokies "the Huskies," a bad case of lockjaw to try to call this game.
And with the way the rivalry with Miami is intensifying in football, it will crank up the rivalry another notch by locking horns with the Canes twice a year in basketball, not to mention that Miami has turned into a pretty good menís basketball team that knocks around on the fringes of the Top 25. Ditto for St. Johnís on that last point.
Now, the negatives: itís a major disappointment that Georgetown and West Virginia arenít in Techís division, and itís a real head-scratcher why those two teams in particular werenít grouped with Tech.
From a geographical standpoint, it would have made much more sense for Tech to be grouped with WVU, Pitt, and Georgetown, all of which are within relatively easy driving, at least when compared with the other teams in the Big East. Instead, out of that group of four schools, Tech was split away from the rest of them and was given the burden of heavy travel costs.
Peachy Ė not only are the costs of entering the conference exorbitant, but the cost of simply being in it are, too. Good thing the Big East Football Conference has that sweet bowl revenue sharing deal that (partly) makes up for it.
Another team that any fan in their right mind would like to have been aligned with is Notre Dame. But no, the Fighting Irish, the team you love to beat, is in the other division, as well. Ditto for Syracuse, a great football rival that is (all together now) in the other division.
In short, a glance at Division 2 reveals six teams that Hokie fans would love to be aligned with, in name and/or in geography. Out of the group, Seton Hall is the only team in Division 2 that doesnít make Hokie fans say, "Yeah, I want to be with them!" Every other school is one the typical Hokie fan would like to be aligned with, for various reasons.
But back in Techís division, there are only two really attractive schools (Miami and Connecticut), two shoulder-shruggers (Boston College and St. Johnís), and two so-whats (Villanova and Providence).
Overall, the new alignment is a big let-down. Swap Tech for Rutgers, Pitt, or Seton Hall, and it would look a lot better.
Each team will play a total of 16 league games per year, which means that each team will play the other six teams in its division twice, and will play four teams from the other division once. The scheduling gymnastics of rotating the four teams out of seven in the other division will be interesting to watch, and will no doubt be reminiscent of the Big Tenís odd football scheduling arrangements, which force a team to play only eight of the ten other teams in the conference each year.
Itís not clear what the other non-revenue or "Olympic" sports are going to do, but in womenís basketball, theyíre going to group themselves together in one big division. Each team will play the other 13 teams once, and then will play 3 other teams a second time, again for a total of 16 league games.
For the full details of the alignments, including how the postseason tournaments will be managed, see the Big East Press Release.
2000 ECU Game Slated for Thursday Night
East Carolina University announced last week that next yearís game between Tech and ECU in Greenville will be played on Thursday, September 7th, and will be televised on ESPN.
According to the most recent information that HokieCentral.com has on Virginia Techís 2000 football schedule (and this information was verified by athletic department personnel), this means that the Hokies will play Akron at home on September 2nd and then make a road trip to play at ECU just five days later.
If that doesnít make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, nothing will. A road game against a possible Top 20 team that is salivating at the thought of making a name for itself by beating the #2 team from 1999? ECU lives for this situation and will be loaded for bear. Greenville will be insane for this game.
Not to mention that the Pirates will return gifted quarterback David Garrard. Garrard will be a junior and will be launching aerials against a young Tech defense that probably wonít have its feet under it that early in the season. The unsure, unimpressive ECU quarterback that you saw in Lane Stadium in 1998 will be gone, and in his place will be an experienced QB with a strong arm and quick feet. With Vick running Techís offense against an ECU defense that also loses a lot of starters to graduation, this one could turn into a real shootout.
Fortunately, ECU has a game on September 2nd as well, on the road at Duke, so the Pirates wonít have any longer to prepare for the game than Tech does. The good news is that the Hokie football staff still feel confident that Tech will land a preseason BCA game on August 26th, so the Hokies may have two games under their belt, not just one. Still, this means three games in thirteen days for the Hokies, which might wear the Hokies down.
Kudos to Tech for having the guts to schedule this game. It may backfire on the Hokies, but at least theyíre not backing down. Theyíre willing to take the risk in exchange for the spotlight of Thursday night on ESPN. It would be nice if some of the big-name programs in the country would show the same guts and agree to play a home-and-home series with the Hokies, instead of flapping their arms and clucking like the bunch of chickens they are as they run away.
Letís face it: Tech doesnít need the Thursday night exposure anymore, although itís still nice to have. You can argue that the smart position for the Hokies would have been to turn down the Thursday game and play it on Saturday the 9th, instead. As a matter of fact, the reason that most of the Thursday night games on ESPN are snoozers is that most well-established teams around the country just donít feel itís worth the exposure to play during the week. When was the last time you saw Michigan, UCLA, Nebraska, or Penn State play on Thursday night? They donít. Virginia Tech is one of the few perennial Top 20 teams that will play on Thursday night.
This ECU game is one to circle on your calendars, because, given that itís early in the season and in a hostile environment, it could very well be the Hokiesí first regular-season loss since 1998. I hope not, but it wouldnít surprise me.