With five regular season games remaining, West Virginia is likely on the outside looking in in terms of receiving an NCAA Tournament bid.
With a record of 15-11, the Mountaineers are currently listed in ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s First Four Out category in his weekly prediction of the NCAA Tournament field.
Saturday’s game against Baylor will provide the Mountaineers with another chance to improve their seeding in the Big 12 Tournament.
Although a win against the Bears wouldn’t do too much to help West Virginia’s tournament resume, a loss could severely damage it.
After starting the year as one of the favorites to win the Big 12, the Bears have fallen flat and have been unable to find much success in the conference this season.
If the Mountaineers want to have any chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament, they have to find a way to string together three or four wins in their last five regular season games and make some noise in the Big 12 Tournament.
Momentum is a fickle thing. After West Virginia’s win over then-No. 11 Iowa State, the Mountaineers seems to have plenty of it.
Saturday’s 88-71 road loss at the hands of the No. 19 Texas Longhorns proved otherwise.
With a full week off between that game and Saturday’s game against the Bears, the Mountaineers have a good opportunity to get back in the win column in the Big 12 and get some of that momentum back.
Capturing that momentum will be a key for West Virginia as the regular season winds down. Seemingly every year a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble gets hot down the stretch, makes a deep run in its conference tournament and ends up finding its way to The Big Dance.
The opportunity is there for West Virginia to be that team this season. Three of the Mountaineers’ final five regular season games will be played in the WVU Coliseum, where they are 4-2 against Big 12 opponents this season. Baylor comes into Saturday’s matchup with the Mountaineers with a record of 2-4 in Big 12 road contests
In the team’s first matchup this season, a 66-64 West Virginia win over the Bears in Waco Jan. 28, junior forward Remi Dibo had one of his best games of the season, scoring 13 points in 23 minutes of playing time.
Having Dibo as a scoring threat outside of the normal offensive leaders Juwan Staten, Terry Henderson and Eron Harris, will be important for West Virginia again Saturday.
When Dibo is able to be a contributor on offense, he draws attention from opposing defenses and doesn’t allow them to key in on the Mountaineers’ main scoring threats.
If West Virginia can find a way to stretch Baylor’s defense Saturday like it did earlier this season, the Mountaineers will have a good chance of securing a comeback win that could propel them to make a run toward the NCAA Tournament.