MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Interim head coach Josh Eilert used to be in charge of creating the WVU men’s basketball team’s schedule. Now, in his current role, most of his power — as it relates to the schedule — is making sure his players are ready to go each day or night they’re expected to step on the floor.
Eilert said he was pleased with how WVU’s schedule turned out when asked last week. Much of the initial focus when the Big 12 Conference schedule was released on Tuesday was on the league’s new scheduling format. The Mountaineers will face every Big 12 team at least once, and play five teams — Cincinnati, Kansas State, TCU, Texas, and UCF — twice.
Something that may have gone unnoticed is West Virginia’s increased number of games that will be streamed exclusively on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
Eighteen of WVU’s 31 regular-season games will only be streamed on ESPN+. Those 18 games consist of seven non-conference games, including the first three contests of the season, and 11 of the 18 games against Big 12 competition. In fact, 10 of WVU’s first 11 Big 12 games of the year will be streamed exclusively on Big 12 Now on ESPN +, with the only non-ESPN+ game in that stretch — Saturday, Feb. 10 at Texas — only being available on the Longhorn Network.
“There’s four more schools that we’re working with, and there’s a lot less time slots. So, naturally, we’re probably going to be on ESPN+ a lot more than we have been in the past, and every school will have to be,” said Eilert. “We’re evolving, that’s the way things are going in this society, so everybody’s pretty much streaming their games these days.”
West Virginia played 13 regular season games on ESPN+ last season. That number was a three-game increase from the 2021-22 season. The Mountaineers’ time on ESPN+ has nearly doubled over the last two years.
That increase will likely irk fans. However, Eilert is fine with the change because of what it means for his team’s travel schedule.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the times. You always, as a coach, and especially with an outlier geographically in the conference, you look at the times and try to figure out, can you get home at a decent time,” said Eilert. “Can you get that rest you need to prepare for the next game? So, yeah, it’s a give or take. The best time slots are going to be the ESPN+ games, and the worst time slots are going to be the national TV games.”
Eilert is mostly correct.
West Virginia will play, at most, seven regular season games that tip off after 7 p.m. ET. The start time for the Dec. 30 contest against Ohio State has not been announced yet, though it will tip off primetime, according to West Virginia.
Of the up to seven late tip-off games, only two will be streamed on ESPN+. The rest will be televised on either FS1, ESPN, ESPN 2 or ESPNU. Two late tips are home games — a 9 p.m. start against Pitt on Dec. 6, and another 9 p.m. tip against TCU for the final home conference game on March 6. Both of those contests will be televised nationally on ESPN 2 or ESPNU.
“So, it’s a give or take in terms of pick your poison on what you want,” said Eilert. “Do you want to be on national TV, or do you want to get that rest, and be able to get back at a decent time?”