While many coaches may shy away from questioning postseason bids and tournament resumes, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins and his team couldn’t be any different.
WVU realizes its position for a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Huggins has never been shy about discussing the specifics such as RPI and strength of schedule. He has put himself in his players’ shoes to halt any wonder or doubt.
“We talked about it in November. We talk about it all the time,” Huggins said. “I think they ought to know. If I was a player, I’d want to know. I just don’t want them to come to me and say I wish you would have told me.”
The Mountaineers (15-11, 7-6) are currently sitting in the “First Four Out” in ESPN’s Bracketology. With the season winding down, every game, no matter the opponent, has taken on great importance.
“We know these last five games are very important,” said junior guard Juwan Staten. “We definitely have to get the ones at home in order to have a shot, and then we need to go on the road and steal a couple.”
West Virginia hosts Baylor Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum after a week away from competition. WVU has not taken the court for a game since being run out of the Erwin Center in Austin, losing to Texas, 88-71.
The loss took away all the momentum the Mountaineers had built up since late January. The team had won four of five games and were coming off the biggest individual win in years when they beat then-No. 11 Iowa State, 102-77.
While West Virginia is on the outside looking in, Baylor is sitting in almost an identical position. The Bears share the “First Four Out” placement with the Mountaineers as well as another Big 12 Conference school in Oklahoma State. The only way to improve is by doing one thing.
“We’ve got to win games,” Huggins said. “It’s no secret. We won some games to get ourselves back in the hunt, but we didn’t play real well at Texas. Now we’ve got to win more games.”
By knowing and discussing where the team stands every day, it’s one less thing players in a Mountaineer uniform need to worry about. Despite the tough loss Saturday, WVU has remained focused and knows the task at hand.
“These games are tough,” Staten said. “Every game holds a lot of weight with us. We know we have to finish strong if we want to have a chance for the postseason.”