CHARLESTON -- Yes, the game's scheduling is more ill-timed than a Bobby Knight sniper backslap (see Indiana-Iowa, Tuesday night).
Yes, the game has become more about providing a show for legislators than settling state bragging rights.
These were just two thoughts I pondered while white-knuckling it back through snowy conditions and slush-hurling tractor trailers on I-79 following Tuesday night's West Virginia-Marshall Capital Classic. The annual basketball series has a much different feel compared to the '80s, when big and little brother dueled on campus.
The biggest problem, obviously, is playing the game in mid-January. West Virginia's focus currently is on a crucial six-game Big East stretch in which it can gain ground against league bottom-feeders.
Marshall, meanwhile, is making noise in the Mid-American Conference for the first time since joining the league in 1997.
Instead of continuing those efforts, both are hauled to Charleston in the midst of conference play for civic duty. It's akin to having a pop quiz dumped on you while studying for finals.
You know what? It's all worth it.
From the time the Charleston Civic Center starts to swell -- half Gold and Blue and half Green and White -- it's a unique Mountain State event. Tuesday night didn't disappoint; in fact, WVU's 82-77 victory might have been the most entertaining matchup since the series moved to Charleston in 1991.
Tamar Slay's coming-out party was remarkable. With several NBA scouts on hand, Marshall's 6-foot-9 sophomore put on a head-turning shooting display.
His nine 3-pointers, including a few that would have counted in the pros, stole the show. Foreshadowing came early when he connected on three bombs in the opening 1:40.
Following a shaky freshman season that included a dismal, three-point effort against the Mountaineers, Slay is proving doubters dumb.
"I can play anywhere," Slay said Tuesday when asked if he felt he could compete in the Big East. "I just try to go out every game and play my game, no matter who it is."
West Virginia withstood Slay's 35-point barrage and won with strength in numbers. With the score knotted at 41 at halftime, Slay's stat sheet read 23 points. His next most prolific teammate, Joda Burgess, had six points.
Four Mountaineers had at least seven points at intermission, led by Marshall-assassin Lionel Armstead with 12.
Marshall's lack of anything resembling a second option was glaring underneath. J.R. VanHoose, hobbled physically and emotionally, was a nonfactor. Just hours after attending his grandfather's funeral in Paintsville, Ky., VanHoose had just seven points on one-of-five shooting.
VanHoose is unable to practice this season due to a injured knee suffered in a preseason pickup game. His conditioning has suffered greatly since posting 24 points and 12 rebounds last year against WVU.
Mountaineer big men, already owning an advantage on Marshall's best day, found little resistence. Center Chris Moss and forwards Marcus Goree and Calvin Bowman combined for 39 points and 17 rebounds.
It resulted in an entertaining back-and-forth exchange -- Marshall's flash against Big East-type power from WVU. The teams even made time for a little tussle when VanHoose and Moss met chest to chest late in the first half.
Yes, the teams' football rivalry is as dormant as a 60 Minutes staff meeting, but it's alive and well on the hardcourt.
Can't wait for next year.