Even with West Virginia’s transition to the Big 12, one opponent will remain a constant in basketball.
The rivalry with Marshall on the hardwood is alive and well, even with the departure of Big East regulars in Pitt, Louisville, Syracuse and Georgetown, the Mountaineers are guaranteed to play the Thundering Herd in Charleston each year.
The two teams, the only Division I programs in the state of West Virginia, have met up in basketball each year since 1978. The Mountaineers own a 32-11 advantage over Marshall in the overall standings and the team looks to add another in the win column tonight.
For the 24th year in a row, the annual Capital Classic game will be held at the Charleston Civic Center. It’s the largest arena in the state that’s not a home game for either team. The location (51 miles from Huntington; 157 miles from Charleston) is about as halfway as it could get in the first place. While the sit is closer to Marshall than it is WVU, the crowd advantage will belong to the Mountaineers.
Dec 13, 2015; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) dunks the ball during the second half against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
After all, WVU is the flagship university of the state.
But attendance has slipped in recent years, all together. According to WVUstats.com, attendance has dropped each year since 2012. Last year, the game only drew 10,749 people after reaching 11,038 the year before. In 2012, the attendance was 12,684 the most since reaching 12,680 in 2007.
West Virginia is currently on a four-game winning streak in the series. Its last lost came in 2011, when the Mountaineers were ranked No. 21 in the country.
This year, WVU is ranked No. 20 and sports an 8-1 record. Marshall is currently riding a three-game winning streak.
So, in this series, Marshall is the team with a lot to win and WVU is in the unfortunate position of having a lot to lose. The Mountaineers should win this game. They stack up well against the Thundering Herd and their stifling defense can smother almost any team in the country.
But upsets happen, just ask North Carolina this year.
Some suggest that because of the unfavorable position the Mountaineers will be in, that the series should be eliminated. It would be a shame if it was to be ended.
WVU plays its share of out-of-conference cupcakes each year, why not play one that has a significant meaning?
This game, played in the most powerful city in the state, brings fans together while ripping some families apart. There are many “house divided” flags flown across the state in homes of couples who have attended each university. Those flags had to be brought down in 2011, with the ceasing of the football series between the two schools.
Playing basketball games against each other gives WVU and Marshall fans a chance to bicker about bragging rights.
Plus, games like this are played across the country. One equally lopsided series is continuous just up the road.
Pitt and Duquesne square off in the City Game, played around the start of each season, too. In 84 meetings, the Panthers hold a 53-31 advantage in the all-time series. Pitt has also won 15-conseuctive City Game contests and 18 of the last 20.
In the end, though, it’s a rivalry game. Anything can happen. That’s why you play the game.