Presidential Visit

When the basketball schedule was released a few months back, some familiar names popped up. Believe it or not though, one of the Mountaineers' most familiar foes was probably the one team on the schedule that made you scratch your head and wonder, "Wait...who?"

Of course I'm referring to the Washington and Jefferson Presidents. The tiny Division III school is located about 45 minutes north of Morgantown in Washington, Pa. That close proximity is likely a major factor in the history between the two schools.

Saturday's game at the Coliseum will be the 67th meeting between WVU and W&J. The Mountaineers lead the all-time series 39-27, with the last meeting coming in 1951.

So how does an 0-4 Division III squad end up playing a road game against a program that advanced to the Elite Eight last March?

"It was a matter of we had to find a game. We could not find a game. People were holding us hostage to get a Division I game. We were either going to have to go on the road again, or we were going to have to pay a sum that would be incredible to get a team to come here," said Mountaineer head coach John Beilein. "As a result, we decided that we had enough tough games. Let's get a home game where hopefully we can get a lot of guys into the game.

"We were looking for somebody where we could help out the other end," Beilein continued. "I played many Division I schools as a Division II coach. We wanted to get somebody close, and just play the game. It was a fluke that will probably never happen again. We didn't want a weekend without a game, and we didn't want to travel again."

If ever there was a game to look past an opponent it would be Saturday's contest. Don't try telling that to the Mountaineer players though.

"It's kind of a get better game. Obviously you can't underestimate anybody. It's college basketball. We're going to come out here, play our game, work our kinks out, and hopefully come out with a victory," said senior guard Patrick Beilein, who is averaging 9.3 points per game off the bench thus far.

"We can't afford to take any team lightly right now, even if it is a Division III team," added Kevin Pittsnogle. "For this team we get up for every game right now because we have to. We're 3-3, so we don't have anything to brag about."

Having not played each other in over 50 years, there is very little familiarity between the two current teams. One of the Mountaineers has done a little bit of homework on the series though.

"The last time we played them was a long time ago. I guess we lead the series, but it's been a long time," said Mike Gansey, who leads the team in both scoring (20.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg). "I didn't know they were called the Presidents. That's kind of cool."

While it doesn't happen very often, Division III schools have beaten good Division I schools before. Gansey and his teammates know that they'll get the black and crimson's best shot.

"This is probably going to be their biggest game of the year. I'm sure they're looking forward to this game, and I'm sure they'll play their best game of the year," he said.

Hopefully the Blue and Gold will come out, build an early lead, and get some younger players into the game for a majority of the second half. From a nostalgic standpoint, it'll be nice to revisit a series that dates back to 1914.

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