MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —  On the eve of another Capital Classic, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins mulled a question regarding the importance of continuing the basketball series against Marshall.

If you expected Huggins to don his promoter’s hat and hype up the in-state game, well, he wasn’t exactly channeling Don King.

“I don’t know,” said WVU’s coach, his voice tailing off a bit. “It’s a hard game sometimes. We just played Gonzaga and we’re getting ready to play Purdue, so it’s hard …”

Listening to Huggins wax rather dispassionately about the annual showdown between the Mountain State’s only two Division I programs, you’re reminded of the obvious: that it clearly means more to the team in green. And despite that deficit in motivation, West Virginia leads the series 30-11 overall and 17-5 since the game became a Charleston mainstay in 1992.

Still, even five wins in 22 years represents a few nice gets for Marshall—which has never won an NCAA tourney game (and hasn’t sniffed a bid since 1987)—and a few severe headaches for West Virginia, whose 25 NCAA tourney wins are tied for 35th nationally.

Because the Capital Classic airs exclusively on in-state television affiliates, it accomplishes little from an exposure standpoint. Nor does WVU receive a recruiting bump from the game, unlike, say, the current series with Purdue, which Huggins hopes to open doors to talent-rich Indiana. Given Marshall’s average season-ending RPI for the past decade was 151, the strength-of-schedule boost has been marginal.

Even the rivalry angle is, to a degree, overstated.

Though WVU and Marshall fans like to spar on message boards, Huggins experienced far more amped buildups to the crosstown rivalry of Cincinnati-Xavier, whose campuses are separated by less than three miles.

“Cincinnati-Xavier is off the charts,” he said. “The whole thing starts two weeks before the game … it’s just nonstop. I got into trouble for saying it, but it’s a holy war. It’s the Catholics against the heathens, that’s the way they look at it.”

“A lot of it is proximity,” added Huggins. “I don’t think people understand how far away we are from Marshall. It’s a long way.”

But before writing off WVU-Marshall as nothing more than a necessary-and-perilous evil for the state’s flagship program, consider the series has resonated with ticket sales. The past three games drew an average crowd of 12,192 to the 12,500-seat Charleston Civic Center. As long as the butts-to-seats ratio remains that near to capacity, it’s a sort-of backyard brawl worth continuing.

Tipoff: 7 p.m. at Charleston Civic Center (Various TV affiliates around West Virginia)
Records: The Thundering Herd (4-5) have dropped three straight games, all on the road, to East Tennessee 88-78, Vanderbilt 69-67 and Penn State 90-77. West Virginia is 6-4 after losing to No. 20 Gonzaga 80-76 on Tuesday
RPIs: Marshall is No. 222 and WVU is No. 87.
Coach: Tom Herrion stands 60-50 at Marshall in his fourth season and, including a previous four-year stint at College of Charleston, 140-88 overall.
Top players: Marshall indefinitely suspended leading scorer Elijah Pittman (21.4 points) earlier this week, though Huggins said he would be surprised to see the 6-foot-9 senior forward play. Pittman hurt WVU from outside in last year’s matchup and leads the Herd with 75 attempted 3-pointers this season. His 72 free throws are 28 more than anyone else on the roster. … If Pittman remains suspended, more responsibility falls upon freshman point guard Kareem Canty (18.3 points, 6.6 assists). Another rookie, 6-5 forward Ryan Taylor (11.4 ppg, 7.6 rebounds), remains questionable after missing the past two games with a knee injury. He was a high school teammate of WVU guard Eron Harris at Lawrence North (Ind.) two seasons ago. Said Huggins: “Other than Missouri, they’re probably as athletic as anybody we’ve played.”
WVU roster notes: Eron Harris (19.3 ppg) scored 23 points in the loss to Gonzaga and continues to shoot better from 3-point range (51.7 percent) than he does inside the arc (44.1 percent). … Terry Henderson cracked the starting five for the first time this season and scored 15 points against Gonzaga, his third straight game in double figures. … Point guard Juwan Staten (16.4 ppg) ranks No. 8 nationally at 6.8 assists per game and fifth in the Big 12 with 82 defensive rebounds. … “We can be good,” said Huggins, whose team needs to win its final three nonconference games and probably go 10-8 in the Big 12 to be in the NCAA discussion. “It’s just that our margin for error is not real big. We can’t take plays off, we can’t not run back down the floor.”
Line: NA
Prediction: West Virginia 81-70

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall guard Kareem Canty (1) drives against Vanderbilt’s Eric McClellan during the Herd’s 69-67 loss in Nashville.
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  • Dave

    What a great night to be a Mountaineer fan wherever you may be.


    I don't think this game should ever cease. Both of these Div. 1 programs are WV State supported schools, and should be played annually. I am disappointed if coach Huggins would ever consider not playing this game.


      Also, there are many Div. 1 teams in surrounding states(VA, TENN, KY, OHIO) who play their in-state Div 1 teams every year in OOC games. Again, coach Huggins needs to back off, and consider the citizens of the state of WV for the WVU vs. MARSHALL game.

  • wvrefugee

    Who gives a rip how it is distributed. The place is a dump and with the logo on the floor like that, we will never attend any event in stinky town!

    • Wv Eers

      Then don't go. Most of us, Marshall & WV fans, like the logo and support coal & the good paying jobs it provides.

  • Mister Man

    When the game is played in Charleston, how is the money distributed? Is it 50/50?

    • William

      25% to Bob Huggins pocket!

  • 5toldU1s

    Pulling this game from Charleston is not going to happen, nor should it. We have proven that this game and any WVU game here will draw fans. Also while I understand the need to showcase the new baseball park in Morgantown, pulling all those games from Charleston is a big mistake. The baseball program set all kinds of attendance records last year and the reason is only partially the success of the team-it's also because fans in Charleston came out in great numbers.

    • Aaron

      I'm not sure if you realize it but West Virginia University is located in Morgantown, not Charleston. That is where their home games should be played.

      • GregG

        Thank you Aaron, finally someone with intelligence pointed out the obvious. This game is nothing more than a money maker for King Danny Jones and fodder for MU supporters to run off at the mouth.

      • Wv Eers

        You aren't filling the stands in Morgantown for games like we do in Charleston.

    • The bookman

      Should be a home and home series every is another story ...can't do a home and home football with 9 conference games...

  • Brett

    So it isn't good enough they moved it up out of the conference schedule. WVU plays a variety of teams and there is nothing wrong with playing a game that is good for the state. Huggins has whined about this more than any previous coach I can recall.

  • Slapnuts

    Marshall gonna take a beatdown from big brother!

  • Aaron

    I don't understand why anyone would want to see this series end. It may not be a rivalry but it is a good game against a logistically close opponent that sells tickets.

    Saying that, I do believe the series should be removed from Charleston and returned to the individual campuses. And while I understood the concern of playing in January, I see no problem with playing it in December.

    I fail to see the downside of playing this game. Who would Coach Huggins replace Marshall with? Akron? Ball State? They already play teams like Mount St. Mary's, Loyola and William and Mary so the Coaches arguments against this game seem trivial to me.

    • Will

      I think I remember reading last year that the Big 12 mandates no out of conference games once conference play starts unless it is a national TV game requested by a network.

  • Barry

    I could care less about the Cincinnati-Xavier games of the past and am quite frankly sick and tired of hearing about the Bob Huggins' glory days in a subpar conference.

  • Big Larry

    "WVU desperately needs to bolster its nonconference resume while Marshall desperately wants to knock off big brother."

    Sorry Allan...but defeating a hapless Marshall team does nothing to bolster its nonconference resume.

    If WVU does not win by 15, something is bad, bad wrong...

    and to think...people will actually spend good hard earned money to watch this circus tonight.

    One more thing...

    At this point in the season...Marshall would be happy to knock off anyone. They have lost 5 out of their last 7 including 3 in a row.

    • Big Larry

      What is even worse, they just kicked their best player and leading scorer off the team...

  • WVU82MD

    These kids are exciting even in losses. This team plays brilliant at times, immature at times and reckless at times...but they're fun to watch. I love this school...its pride...its athletics, but we as fans lost it a little bit with the football team this year. Don't sell out on these national title here but some upsets loom. Get back on board with WVU football, its really a soon to be discovered threat in the BIG XII.

    • Jason

      Come on....realistically WVU football is making money just being in the conference from a football standpoint. Fans better get used to .500 conference records as the norm. It is what it is. Every now and then they wil put together a team, but it will not be year in and year out. Too many cards stacked against them.

      • Aaron

        I'm curious Jason, how come you take this conversation to football when today's games involve the basketball teams?

        Seriously, you talk about West Virginia's teams playing .500 ball but what you fail to mention is that they will be doing it in a conference whose league champion will year in and year out finish in the top 10 and be in contention for the NCAA playoff's versus playing for the Liberty Bowl.

        I'd much rather go to west to play the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, OK State and the rest of the Big 12 then settle for UTEP, North Texas, Tulsa and Tulane.

        • GoEers

          Jason has posted this same ridiculous post a month or two ago....typical marshall troll

        • Mister Man

          That may be true but, ummm, at least it's true.

      • The bookman

        WVU has always put together a quality program that has been competitive across the national spectrum of conferences...I agree that the Big XII brings it's challenges week in and week out in conference play, but playing at that level will over time improve the quality of our program...going 8-4 in an average year in a big time conference is enough for me...and I would also say that as poor a year as we had this season, most teams in the Big XII viewed us as a threat save Baylor...ask Okie St what they think of us...think they won't be waiting to ring our bell next year?

        As a Marshall Fan you should be proud of your teams accomplishments and success this season...I root for the success of their program like I do WVU, unless we are on the same field...and for the love of God I do not understand the need of Herd fans like yourself to constantly tear down our program...your comment in no way adds to the debate.. It's just negative...continue on your path and you'll end up like William and Larry left with Zero credibility...just sayin!

        • Jason

          I have nothing against WVU (anymore). I am merely stating my observations and giving my opinion. I think WVUs past success will no be constantly achieved again being in the big xii...recruiting will be the biggest Achilles heel, top recruits will rarely choose to come to Morgantown...I am not talking about a fast WR or RB every now and then, I am talking about athletic depth at all the positions across the board...and that is what you need to be competitive in that conference year in and year out. They (like Marshall) will have to roll the dice on some players with baggage, some will work out and some won't...once a decade they will have a perfect storm and put together a good team to compete...but the reality is, the majority of d1 athletes are not in the wv high schools, so WVU will have to go out of state to get recruits, and the top recruits in those states will typically want to play at their big program in state where mom can come watch them play. The teams WVU beat or almost beat this year, I am afraid they were more than likey overlooking WVU, that won't happen next year. Anyway, ultimately it will be too much to overcome to be really competitive year in and year out in that conference. Not saying every year will be a disaster, but 8-4 is probably as good as it will get. On another note, I am proud of the job doc has been doing at MU, the program is moving in the right direction...the two programs are not apples to apples from a budget standpoint, but I don't wish any ill will towards WVU, never really have, it was mostly the fans that were just irritating over time. I get it, fans in wv like WVU because it has the states name associated with it...but the irony is...the current coach and probably 90 percent of the players think Country Roads is a joke.

          • The bookman

            I agree that most of what you say presents a challenge to WVU...but much of that is no different now than in the past...WVU has had success facing their recruiting challenges, and with more money flowing into the program, facilities and recruiting budgets will improve, as well as our exposure nationally...there really isn't anything new in your comments that haven't been brought forward for nearly two years, so why not give it a rest for a while and let things develop or unravel...just because they are challenges doesn't mean they will be failures...WVU has a bright future in the Big XII, and although it won't be easy, nothing worth having ever is!

          • Mister Man

            You have a fantastic sense of humor. However, no sense of reality.

          • Aaron

            Spoken like a true Marshall fan. The colors suit you.

            I'm curious though Jason, do you think Doc believes Country Roads is a joke.

        • Big Larry

          I wish that someday in the future I can be wise and have as much "credibility" as you oh great one...

          • The bookman

            Having a goal is the first step!!! Good luck in your efforts to climb back to respectability. I wish you luck with it!