Jovenitti: West Virginia in Final Four a good thing

By Tony Jovenitti

As much as it pains me to say this, West Virginia making the Final Four is a good… As much as it pains me to say this, West Virginia making the Final Four is a good thing.

I know, I had to hold back a little bit of vomit, too, when WVU made (seemingly) 135 percent of its 3-pointers Saturday, sending the Mountaineers to compete in Indianapolis for the national championship.

Because the Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, neither team has made the Final Four.

So sure, Panther fans are angry that WVU made a Final Four before Pitt. But after a brief reflection, I’ve determined that this can only be a good thing for Pitt. Think about it: it’s good for the Big East and recruiting.

After only two Big East teams made it to the Sweet 16, the analysts said the Big East was overrated this year. But the conference still sent a team to the Final Four. That’s something only three other conferences can claim.

Besides saving face for the conference, it helps with recruiting, especially for WVU.

I know it doesn’t sound like a good thing that WVU received a boost in recruitment, but it actually makes sense.

This guarantees that WVU will be competitive for years to come, and as long as Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon’s around, Pitt will also be competitive.

Therefore, the Backyard Brawl will continue to grow, and if next year’s games are half as good as Pitt’s triple-overtime win this season, then the rivalry will continue to gain national exposure.

Who knows, maybe even ESPN will realize that there are other rivalries besides Duke-North Carolina and Syracuse-Georgetown.

This guarantees more national exposure for both WVU and Pitt, which helps Dixon in his recruitment endeavors, as well.

WVU’s Final Four berth also helps out the rest of the Big East’s recruitment, for much of the same reasons it helps Pitt’s.

Perennial bubble teams like Cincinnati and Seton Hall can market toward recruits by pointing out that their team will have the chance to play several Final Four contenders every year.

If you think quality of opponents doesn’t help recruiting, look no further than the topic of today’s discussion. Prior to joining the Big East in 1991, WVU only made the second round of the NCAA Tournament six times in its 36 years of basketball.

Once they started playing perennial powers like Syracuse and Villanova, the Mountaineers made the Sweet 16 five times, including this season.

Pitt saw a similar improvement. Pitt only appeared in the Sweet 16 twice prior to joining the Big East in 1982. Pitt now has five Sweet 16 appearances in the past nine years.

One can only expect that it is a matter of time for the newer members of the Big East, such as Cincinnati, to achieve the sustained success that Pitt and WVU have found.

But the recruiting advantages only matter to a certain point. Sure, a national championship sounds nice to recruits, but recruits mainly look for Final Four hopes.

That means WVU’s success is good for the Big East and for recruitment, but the advantages end at the Final Four.

So feel free to root heavily for Duke Saturday. I know I will be.