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Looking forward to a bright new year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- SO WHY exactly did you celebrate New Year's Eve? To honor your household budget being thrown off the "fiscal cliff"? To see the price of pop at the vending machine at work hit $1.25?

Or did you try to dull the pain? OK, I get that.

But I do not open this new year as a humbug, nor do I come to set resolutions. I see a bright 2013, especially if some of the following comes to pass:

 

  • Conference realignment continues to be entertaining. Let's see ... Boise State has just told the Big East "thanks but no thanks," which means San Diego State shall be close behind.
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    The Big East will live on because, hey, Mike Aresco wants to keep drawing a paycheck. As he has shown, he will cast a wide net and see who lives, sort of like the 1990s East Coast Hockey League model.

    Do NOT be surprised if Aresco makes a run at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which has yet to play a varsity football game. Then again, the 49ers will be able to whip Tulane by 2015.

     

  • Marshall basketball players learn the fine art of drawing the charging foul. Save for Chris Martin, I have trouble recalling another Thundering Herd player doing so this season.
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    We're not talking about European soccer flopping here. We're talking about getting in position, getting feet set and taking contact from an opponent who thinks he has a free ticket to the rack - such as Kentucky enjoyed against the Herd recently.

    Oh where art thou, Tirrell Baines?

     

  • The return to the Marshall lineup, and subsequent good behavior, of DeAndre Kane. Yes, Elijah Pittman is impressive and D.D. Scarver can shoot off the catch, but the Thundering Herd offense treads quicksand without the hand-in-cast Kane.
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  • College basketball and football coaches re-emphasize the recruitment of athletes who attend ONE high school for four years and maybe ONE junior college or prep school. I'm guessing six different transcripts sets off sirens in the dark recesses of the NCAA Initial Eligibility Center.
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  • Reduction of classifications in West Virginia high school athletics. Two is plenty, and one too many in several sports - tennis and golf come to mind. Another pipe dream, I know.
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  • A pink driver shows up at the Greenbrier Classic. That would come attached to Bubba Watson, who was one of the game's great characters before his nearly impossible shot at the 2012 Masters.
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    That's not a pipe dream. The hunch here is Jim Justice will land Watson, whose family will enjoy a weekend at the resort without off-course fan stalking (yep, that has happened).

     

  • Should Tiger and Phil return to Old White, they make the cut for once. One of them would discover a 62 or 63 in the scoring-friendly third round, and then we would have some Sunday fun.
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    Then again, I'd "settle" for a final Sunday twosome of Watson and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, the latter a consistent Classic contender and overall good guy.

     

  • Conference USA, still in one piece with realignment, survives bowl "silly season."
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    The end of the Bowl Championship Series comes with the end of the 2013-14 bowl schedule. That also signals one big food fight as conferences and bowls schmooze for the best positions.

    C-USA has a good history of taking care of its members - remember, that's a big reason Marshall pursued the league a decade ago - but the sheer number of games almost guarantees a C-USA team with a 6-6 record or better plays on.

    The big question is what the league will do for a flagship bowl, since you can kiss the Liberty Bowl goodbye. There is a reason that bowl opted for an unappetizing Iowa State-Tulsa rematch: Sucking up to the Big 12. It stands to reason officials there are angling for a Big 12/Big East/SEC arrangement.

    So is every other bowl. Perhaps the New Orleans Bowl can advertise it will pit Big East No. 10 vs. SEC No. 12, only to wind up with Rice vs. Louisiana-Monroe anyway. Whatever works.

     

  • We get a long, long respite from the New York Jets. Never have I seen more wasted keystrokes over such a mediocre franchise, one that solely exists for the entertainment of the New York market and the over-employment of CFL-caliber quarterbacks.
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    As the NFL playoffs begin, the rest of America won't miss this bunch.

     

  • Marshall coach Doc Holliday hits a home run in his hiring of a defensive coordinator. OK, a bunt single will do.
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    I'm no expert, but when a second-string linebacker starts in order to "get people lined up" and your corners consistently allow 12-yard cushions, your team might allow 517 points in 12 games.

     

  • The West Virginia Power overcomes all obstacles and has a successful season all around. By "obstacles," I mean being supplied players by the worst franchise in North American major-league sports.
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    I'd say that after handing closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox, the Pirates will lead baseball in ninth-inning collapses. Alas, that generally assumes a number of ninth-inning leads.

    Three months to the start of Losing Season No. 21.

     

  • The best-ever West Virginia Conference basketball tournament, because it's the last one.
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    And I suspect it will be the last such gathering of Division II basketball here. Connect the dots: The newly formed Mountain East Conference will have more a more northerly geographic center and commissioner Reid Amos comes from a position as West Liberty's director of broadcasting.

    After the NCAA approves the league's application, you can count on the league office remaining in Wheeling, and I'm betting the basketball tournament will grow roots downtown at Wesbanco Arena. Objectively speaking, it's not a bad fit.

    (As a joking aside: The sports staffs at the two Charleston newspapers are overrun with Wheeling-area expatriates, so coverage should be no problem. Free lodging, you know.)

    If folks here want the first MEC tournament at the Civic Center, they have some lobbyin' to do.

     

  • And finally, Dana Holgorsen makes a guest appearance on MTV's "Buckwild." After the Pinstripe Bowl, he might find that cathartic.
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    With that, I wish all a happy New Year. Or at least a happy first day of it.

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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