Scheduling Florida Only A Beginning

WVU head basketball coach John Beilein has definite ideas for how he'd like to see the men's basketball schedule structured. Today's confirmation of Florida as a December opponent in the Charleston Civic Center is just one step in that direction.

"We are very pleased to be able to announce this game in Charleston and to play a national power like the University of Florida," Beilein said. "This is something that I'm happy to do. I want to make West Virginia University the state University, and bring exciting basketball to all parts of the state.

"We hope this will be a great event, and in the years to come, we hope to continue this type of scheduling, and make sure that all our great fans in this end of the state get to see us up close.

"We have a return match with Tennessee and some other interesting games that we'll announce later. It's going to be an aggressive schedule, but not as aggressive as we want it to be in the future."

Beilein is not shy about going on the road to play challenging opponents, and while he's not going to play "Duke, North Carolina, Florida and Michigan State" this year, he does want to challenge his team by venturing outside the WVU Coliseum.

"We're going to play virtually all of our [home] games in Morgantown. But you can't become too comfortable in your surroundings. Our goal is to be at the top of the Big East, and you need situations that aren't as comfortable, so you can learn how to win in those situations.

"One of the big things for our guys is to learn how to win on the road. You have to find ways to win rather than find excuses for losing."

Beilein acknowledged that part of the reason for this game in Charleston was to provide an opportunity for former St. Albans star Brett Nelson to play near at home, but immediately points out that such games aren't in his plans for the future.

"Our plan is to never have to do this again, because we don't want to have a great player leave the state. We are going to work like crazy to not let that happen again."

Beilein wants to have a second game in Charleston on a regular basis, and would like to have that opponent be an attractive one. However, he was also conscious of the effects on the student body, and mentioned more than once that he would like to schedule the second game when students are away on break.

That isn't the case for this year's Florida game, but given the lateness of Beilein's hiring and the last minute crunch in putting a schedule together that's not yet complete, simply getting the game on the schedule at all was a big achievement.

Beilein also likes the idea of playing in tournaments, perhaps as many as one each year.

"We always want to go to an attractive tournament away from home. We'd like to go to the south, or the far west if possible. We (Richmond) went to Las Vegas and it was a very binding experience for everyone.

"I've been on that RPI bubble for years, and sometimes one more tough game against a better opponent might have been enough to get us in.

"We want to have a headstart on those tournaments so we can use that. I want to be able to tell kids we're recruiting that we are going to go to Arizona, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico for tournaments. That's a big selling point when we can show them that ahead of time."

Like any good coach, however, Beilein is aware that he could easily overschedule his team. He's seeking the right balance in his non-conference schedule to complement the tough Big East slate.

"We feel that the Big East schedule is extremely difficult. We're playing in one of the very best conferences in the country, and we don't feel we need to go to much to prove ourselves, but we would like to play a few of these games each year.

"Scheduling is not as easy as everyone thinks. You have to find a date. The other team has to be willing to play. We have to figure out where we're going to play and if the arena is available. And we also look at who they have coming back. There's a lot involved in it."

The rest of WVU's non-conference schedule has been mostly worked out, but formalizing agreements and signing contracts must be done before any announcements are made.

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