Chuck Landon: Group of 5 struggles to compete with Power 5

May 7, 2019

Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.

There is a two-for-one special today on opinions.

n Power Five dominance over Group of Five athletic programs is becoming more and more obvious across the board.

Just take a long look at Marshall University’s 2018-19 sports year. It is a prime example.

It began last December 1, as Marshall’s football program was hammered, 41-20, by a below average Virginia Tech team.

The proud Thundering Herd defense had not allowed a touchdown pass in the previous three games, but got scorched by unheralded quarterback Ryan Willis on four touchdown passes in just the first half.

The game was over for all intents and purposes at halftime, as Marshall trailed, 31-6. That was the Herd’s largest deficit of the season.

Yet, the Hokies finished with a 6-7 record and didn’t have a single player selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Next, the difference between Power Five and Group of Five became evident during the Marshall men’s basketball season.

It began with an overwhelming 104-67 loss at the University of Maryland. Star MU guard Jon Elmore was held to six points on 2-for-14 shooting, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers and committed seven turnovers.

Then, the Herd was whacked 92-68 at Texas A&M. MU’s Rondale Watson scored 19 points and C.J. Burks added 18, but Elmore was limited to six points on 3-for-12 shooting.

Next stop, Charlottesville, Virginia. The University of Virginia, the eventual 2019 national champion, rode rough-shod over the Herd, 100-64. The Cavaliers vaunted defense held Marshall to 35.1 percent field-goal shooting overall and only 27.3 percent on 3-pointers.

Elmore led the way with 14 points on 3-for-17 shooting, including 1-for-8 from behind the arc.

And now? The Power Five’s dominance is showing in such sports as baseball and softball.

Marshall is 0-4 this season vs. Power Five competition in baseball. It began with an 11-3 loss to Virginia Tech at Appalachian Power Park.

Next, West Virginia University hammered the Herd, 15-3, at Power Park. At one point, the Mountaineers held a 13-0 lead and MU finished with only three hits.

Then, Marshall lost, 7-0, to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. And, finally, the Thundering Herd lost, 2-0, to WVU in Monongahela County Ballpark in Morgantown. The Mountaineers had a no-hitter going until MU finally broke it up on a single with two outs in the ninth inning.

Marshall was out-scored by WVU, 17-3, and managed only four hits in two games. The Herd also was out-scored, 18-3, by Virginia Tech.

Finally, there’s softball.

Just last week, a not very good University of Pittsburgh squad defeated Marshall, 7-3, with relative ease. Now, here’s the sticking point. Marshall came into the game with a 33-17 record and was playing at home on Dot Hicks Field.

Pitt’s record coming into the game was 9-41.

Yes, it’s becoming more and more obvious how difficult it is for Group of Five schools to compete against Power Five schools.

It’s just going to get worse.

n The NCAA made a less-than-astonishing decision recently.

It rescinded a policy prohibiting championship competition from being held in states that allowed single-game sports betting.

Really? Already?

It only has been a year since the United States Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized gambling nationally. Since then, Nevada has been joined by seven states, including West Virginia, which features full-scale sportsbooks.

The NCAA should try keeping up to speed, for a change.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.