While the Herd is certainly struggling, the annual tilt in the Capital City is seldom, if ever, a blowout. The Mountaineers are the far superior team on paper, but those in and around the Mountaineer basketball program won't be surprised if the 2005 Capital City Classic ends up being a true "Maalox Masher."
"Don't be fooled by their record, they've got a good basketball team," said Mountaineer head coach John Beilein, who is 2-0 in his pair of games against the Green and White. "If we don't play well, we're not going to win. They have the ability to score points, and they defend very well."
Junior forward Mike Gansey will be playing in his first game against the Herd. While he has yet to experience the game first hand, he has an idea of what to expect from talking to teammate Pat Beilein.
"I guess it's a big rivalry game from what I've heard. We're just going to take it like it's any other game, even though it's not a Big East team. We'll go out and play as hard as we can," says the ultra-energetic Gansey.
The Olmstead Falls, Ohio native played well in his only previous trip to the Civic Center against his former mates at St. Bonaventure.
"The Bonaventure game was exciting because it was my old school and we were 3-0. Now we're playing Marshall, another West Virginia team. They're going to want to beat us, and we're going to want to beat them. It's the game for the state of West Virginia, and I'm really excited for it.
The Civic Center left a good initial impression on Gansey.
"It seemed like a little louder. The fans there were real supportive. Plus, you know, it's kind of cool how it's right next to our hotel and stuff.
Gansey isn't the only Mountaineer with positive memories from Charleston. The program as a whole is 5-0 under Beilein in games played at the Civic Center. Despite the unbeaten record, Beilein says those games could have gone either way.
"It's not like it's a place where we go in and play lights out. It's been a place that we've gone in and been very fortuitous," says Beilein.
Gansey doesn't feel the Mountaineers will look down on Marshall because of their inferior record.
"As a team, we're still going to come out hard every minute we're on the court. It's a big rival game with Marshall… They're going to see us and see that we're 11-1 and want to come out and upset us."
Going to the Capital City is always a great thing for everyone involved. The atmosphere for the Capital City Classic is second, in this humble sportswriter's opinion, to only the Boys High School State Tournament. The people of Charleston have a chance to see the two favorite teams in the Mountain State do battle once a year.
"This one means a lot to a lot of people in the state. It's great. Anything can happen," sums up Beilein.
Gansey is a bit more frank in his conclusion.
"You can throw records away; it's going to be a battle."
If history is any indication, the 2005 Capital City Classic will prove to be just that.