Often times in life (and especially sports), we tend to get ahead of ourselves. We dial into the present rather than looking in either direction. Perhaps a lot of us have trapped the Mountaineer men’s basketball team into being what WVU fans want them to be – a contender.
Instead of thinking about the team a few games above .500, let’s remember the one that tipped off the 2013-14 season back in November. Their expectations, if any, were low, and the word “tournament” simply wasn’t mentioned.
We have focused on the 2014-15 team that will hopefully have learned from their experiences from the current season and maybe could play well enough for a postseason.
Somewhere along the way, though, it all changed. I think it was inside the WVU Coliseum the night of Feb. 10 when the Mountaineers shocked America by handing then-No. 11 Iowa State a 102-77 loss. The team hasn’t won since then and chatter about the NCAA tournament was gone as quick as when the conversation sparked up.
It appears now West Virginia has the resume of a NIT team. But once again, if somebody would have told me in November I’d say how great it was. I still do.
Bubble teams with no seniors on the roster and playing with nothing to lose are often confronted with a question. In fact, it’s just a good ol’ fashioned game of “Would you rather?” Is it better for this current program to play in the NIT or lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament?
Back in November the answer was simple. The team would certainly have more room to grow by competing in the NIT rather than a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio. If we continue to trust the process of getting better and building the foundation back, the trip to the NIT makes the most logical sense.
The future is bright and patience is a virtue. There’s so much upside that’s on the 2013-14 roster. Junior guard Juwan Staten has been nothing short of spectacular and will be of national prominence in 2015. Sophomore guards Eron Harris and Terry Henderson have had terrific moments in which they have shined on their own. Throw in the collection of freshman big men along with the unmentionable suspended players and you have a Big 12 Conference contender.
I remember many Mountaineer fans proposing the end of the season after the Jan. 18 thumping WVU took at Kansas State. Give the guys credit for bouncing back the way they did. The schedule isn’t favorable, however. Moreover, it’s outright daunting.
In no way am I trying to now concede the season West Virginia has had. But the goals may have once again been shifted. I’m just taking the liberty to think about the best for the program. The 2007 Mountaineer team won the NIT championship. The next year? A berth in the Sweet 16. Let’s see how it all unfolds this time around.