Column - Four reasons WVU fans should be getting worried
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012 04:02
West Virginia had another chance to help solidify its NCAA tournament bid Wednesday night against No. 18 Notre Dame.
The result was a 71-44 loss in what was possibly the worst performance by a Bob Huggins-coached WVU team.
It was the Mountaineers' sixth loss in eight games and, although the current cold streak might not have been a cause for concern a few weeks ago, that has certainly changed now.
Obviously, things can change between now and Selection Sunday, but with the way things are going now, it's not looking too promising.
Reason No. 1: Almost doesn't cut it
Throughout the season, West Virginia has been close to winning quite a few games against very talented teams.
The Mountaineers lost by two points to No. 2 Syracuse and No. 13 Baylor, fell to No. 17 Louisville by three and had second-half leads crumble against Notre Dame and UConn.
While nobody is saying any of those losses are bad, all of them are against very good teams that will have a chance to make the tournament – with the exception of the Huskies, who are in the same situation as the Mountaineers.
But, unfortunately for West Virginia, the selection committee doesn't award points for "almost" beating a team. Closing teams out at the end of a game has been a big problem for the Mountaineers all season, and there's a good chance it could cost them when the brackets come out in a few weeks.
Reason No. 2: Where are the resume wins?
If you look at WVU's tournament resume, it says the Mountaineers are 9-9 against teams in the top 100 of the RPI.
But who have those wins been against?
The two big wins that look really good are over Kansas State and No. 9 Georgetown. Those are, in my mind, the only ones that will look great for the Mountaineers to the selection committee.
Victories against Marshall, Cincinnati, Miami (Fla.), Oral Roberts and Akron don't look bad, but will it really be enough to make WVU look better than some of the other bubble teams fighting for a spot?
Five of those nine wins against top-100 teams have come at the Coliseum and three more (Missouri State, Kansas State and Marshall) were at neutral sites. The only away win in that list was last Thursday's win over Pittsburgh.
The Mountaineers are 1-5 on the road against top-100 teams, and 3-6 in true away games.
According to the current RPI rankings, WVU's third-best win after Kansas State and Georgetown came against Oral Roberts in its season-opener. I'm just not sure if that resume will get the Mountaineers in the tournament as of right now.
They can get two more wins that will look better than the victory over the Golden Eagles if they can come away with wins over No. 10 Marquette or South Florida.
Those wins would go a long way in making their chances much, much better.
Reason No. 3: KJ needs help
It seems like every time WVU head coach Bob Huggins speaks to the media, he gives some variation of what he said Thursday during the Big East Conference teleconference.
"He's been great. He has such a great attitude and he doesn't try to do things he can't do. He's been our only constant," Huggins said. "We've played everybody, and KJ has carried us on his back."
Jones has been the best player in the Big East all season, and has been among the best players in the country.
But except him, the Mountaineers have been plagued all season by a crippling lack of consistency from the rest of the team.
For a week or so, senior guard Truck Bryant and junior forward Deniz Kilicli will emerge and play really well, looking like they could be KJ's sidekick. Then they'll fall off and start struggling again.
The large group of freshmen has been just as enigmatic.
If West Virginia can't find a reliable second option to lean on the rest of the season, it will be very hard for Jones to carry this team all the way to
the NCAA tournament on his own.
Reason No. 4: They're not handling losing well
Nobody on this WVU team is used to losing the way they are right now.
All the freshmen played on good teams in high school prior to this season; the three returners have been used to winning games by the bunches since they've been in Morgantown.
When you're used to winning that much, and the team is as young as this one is, it can be really hard to handle struggling the way the Mountaineers have struggled as of late.
If West Virginia really wants to prove it is worthy of an at-large bid, it will shake off those struggles and finish the year on a strong note.
That starts with protecting its house and beating Marquette at home tonight.
I guess we'll just have to see how it all turns out.