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Op-Ed: ESPN's Katz Crossed the Line

katz-in-racoon-hat1ESPN’s Andy Katz elevated my blood pressure with his Friday post featuring West Virginia’s coach, Bob Huggins. He waxes poetic about Huggins as the messiah "who has transformed West Virginia into an elite team in three seasons," and compares him to John Calapari. OK, fair enough (although, I am left to wonder whether that comparison is the high praise he intended, and pray to St. Augustine that Jay Wright is forever spared similar acclaim). Where Katz crossed the line, however, was the incredulity and indignation he expressed in challenging the Big East Coaches Poll, which named Nova the league’s top team (narrowly winning by 3 votes, 218 - 215, over West Virginia). Wrote Katz, "The Mountaineers were projected to finish in second behind Villanova. But really, second place behind Nova? Does Villanova really have more talent than West Virginia or are the Wildcats just feeding off the Final Four run?" ESPN tried to lessen the sting of Katz’s comments, appending an Editor’s Note that begins "This isn’t meant as a dismissal of Villanova."

Objectively I must give West Virginia its due. They indeed return a strong team led by veterans Da’Sean, Devin Ebanks, Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant (the latter two conveniently rejoining the team in the penultimate month of the preseason after suspensions following a second arrest for assault and undisclosed violations of team rules, respectively … while Reggie Redding serves out his semester-long suspension for a seemingly less serious violation). Furthermore, Nova fans remember the meltdown in Morgantown on February 14 as the low point of an otherwise great 2008-09 season. Had Katz simply observed that the West Virgina / Nova home-and-home series on February 8 and March 6, respectively, will pair the league’s best teams, I would have nodded vigorously in agreement. However, to question with such exasperation the selection of Nova over West Virginia, as if the coaches had picked DePaul to win it all, leaves me with no choice but to conclude that Mr. Katz has a closet full of raccoon hats.