Save for the quality of the professional football product each city puts on the field, there’s no confusing Cleveland for Cincinnati.
Nevertheless, there will be a homecoming feel for West Virginia freshman point guard Miles McBride when the No. 22 Mountaineers face No. 2 Ohio State at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (nee: Quicken Loans Arena) on Sunday afternoon.
The Buckeyes have been an oversized presence in McBride’s life from birth. His mother Kim was a tennis player at Ohio State, so he has seen plenty of scarlet-and-gray in his day. The bulk of his high school classmates at Archbishop Moeller are Buckeyes now, as well.
As he prepared to head home for Christmas, McBride accepted that everyone he met would likely have something to say about the upcoming game.
“I’ve got a lot — a lot — of friends at Ohio State,” McBride said following WVU’s 65-54 win at Youngstown State. “My mom played tennis there. I’m an Ohio kid. It’s going to be exciting. I’ll be ready for that one.”
If McBride wanted to stay in his home state for college, though, he would have had to go with The Ohio University rather than The Ohio State University. Outside of Dayton, all of McBride’s in-state scholarship offers were from Mid-American Conference schools.
Bob Huggins took a chance on McBride despite a broken ankle that limited his junior season in high school to just two games and put him under the radar in recruitment.
McBride has yet to make a start for the Mountaineers, but don’t be fooled.
The true freshman is taking control of the point guard position from sophomore Jordan McCabe, even though McCabe has started all 11 games. McBride has played 53.6 percent of West Virginia’s minutes this season compared to 34.1 percent for McCabe and 21.1 percent for Brandon Knapper.
McBride is averaging 7.7 points, 2.7 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game off the bench. He is ranked 10th in the Big 12 for lowest turnover rate.
As much as beating the Buckeyes would mean to McBride, it has much greater import to the Mountaineers as a whole.
WVU has a chance to assert itself as one of the Big 12’s teams to beat with conference play right around the corner. Conference foes Kansas and Baylor are both in the Top 10, and Texas Tech is right behind the Mountaineers at No. 23.
A win over Ohio State would be West Virginia’s first over a Top 5 opponent since downing No. 2 Kansas on Jan. 24, 2017. The Mountaineers haven’t beaten a Top 5 foe away from WVU Coliseum since upsetting Kentucky in the 2010 Syracuse Regional Final.