Realignment has broken up so many successful rivalries over the past several years, as big-time programs choose money over tradition. In the region where West Virginia meets Ohio, however, a long-running non-conference rivalry is also coming to a halt. Definitely temporarily, and possibly forever.
Marshall and Ohio University have been playing each other in football and basketball since 1954, setting aside non-conference dates to renew the rivalry on a yearly basis. Now Ohio wants out of this season’s return trip, and that doesn’t sit well with columnist Chuck Landon, who lambasted the Bobcats in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.
According to sources, the Bobcats offered the lame excuse that they ran out of room for another road game.
I call hogwash on that.
The crux of the matter is Ohio owed Marshall a game in Huntington after beating the Herd, 94-57, in Athens, Ohio, last season. But, now, the Bobcats are bailing on that obligation.
It sounds suspiciously like Ohio is blaming its non-conference schedule for not getting an at-large bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament. And, of course, the Bobcats see Marshall and its 13-19 record as one of the culprits.
I suppose that makes a certain amount of curmudgeonly sense, though it’s hard to imagine what Ohio could have done to improve their tourney-worthiness short of scheduling some serious heavy hitters from the mega-conferences, and winning at least one. It’s not as if Marshall hasn’t propped up Ohio’s RPI slightly in years when it was the stronger program. In general, however, the only reliable pathway to the Big Dance out of the MAC is an auto-bid, which means non-conference scheduling can help with seeding, but the real work is done in early March.
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t aware this even was a rivalry, but I still hate to hear of regional dustups getting shut down. Regardless of the limelight, the RPI or the NCAA tournament, they’re some of the games that make college basketball so meaningful in every corner of this country every season.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.