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The Carrier Dome Advantage

By all accounts, The Carrier Dome is a very difficult place to play.  West Virginia can attest to that, having gone 1-9 all-time in the building since 1987.  But when it comes to the East regional in Syracuse this week, the circumstances are very different, namely for two reasons: 1) Syracuse isn't the opponent, and 2) the Carrier Dome is a complete stranger to the likely opponents.

The first point is pretty self-explanatory.  Syracuse will be playing across the country in Salt Lake City, meaning the Orange's great home record against us is of no concern.  In fact, the distance between Syracuse and their regional location may induce many Orange fans to stay home, potentially resulting in a partisan Big East crowd (I really can't see Syracuse fans cheering against us in basketball -- Pitt yes, Syracuse no).

The latter point is the real X-factor in this equation.

When I think of places where first-timers have a very difficult time playing, two venues immediately come to mind: the decrepit and dim Charleston Civic Center and the cavernous Carrier Dome.  Seeing it in a shoot-around is one thing, but playing in the Carrier Dome for the first time can be a difficult experience.

Sight lines behind the basket are usually pretty straight-forward, as most arenas teams play in are designed for basketball.  The Carrier Dome, however, isn't like that at all.  The areas behind both baskets are the sidelines for viewing football.  Their rise angles are much less steep than that of a typical basketball court.  Because of this, the depth-perception of a shooter can be greatly affected (or impacted, if you want to make up words like most current basketball analysts).  Now Washington and Kentucky may be no strangers to big crowds, but the Carrier Dome is both a big crowd assembled in a tough environment -- an environment that WVU players got to see up-close and personal last season (granted, in a loss, but reference point #1).

It may not be the deciding factor in the game -- it's likely not -- but at this point in the season, anything helps. 

Note: Of course, if Cornell beats Kentucky, this only works for the Washington game, considering Cornell has played in the Dome as recently as November.