Column - WVU men not dead yet
Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, February 13, 2012 01:02
Hear that chomping sound?
That would be the melody of Mountaineer fans biting their nails.
Why the bad nerves?
After a heart-breaking defeat to No. 23 Louisville Saturday, the West Virginia men's basketball team is in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time under head coach Bob Huggins.
The Mountaineers have lost five of their last six games, and I think this is as good a time as any to look at this team's NCAA tournament resume.
At 16-10 overall, West Virginia is currently 6-7 in Big East Conference play. Key wins would include one against No. 9 Georgetown, Kansas State and Miami. Realistically, the Mountaineers only have two bad losses – Kent State and St. John's.
Now, let's look into the RPI, which seems to be a major determinant of the at-large bids.
WVU is holding strong at No. 40 in the RPI and has the seventh-toughest strength of schedule. However, Huggins' team is only 3-7 against the RPI top 50, but is 9-9 against the RPI top 100.
The Mountaineers also only have one loss to a team currently outside RPI top 100 – St. John's.
So, what I'm saying is West Virginia still has a strong NCAA tournament resume, and there is still plenty of time left to secure an at-large bid.
Only one of the Mountaineers' final five games (DePaul) is against a team outside the RPI top 100, so there are still plenty of opportunities to incur quality wins.
Also, WVU is eighth in the Big East Conference standings. The top-eight teams in the standings get a first-round bye for the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
With all of this being said, I have a message for the old gold-and-blue faithful: Don't throw in the towel.
The last four losses have come by a combined 15 points, and the Mountaineers have held a lead late in the second half of all of them.
And, well, let's just say some officiating hasn't helped the cause.
If this team wins three of its final five games, which is very possible, and wins one game in the Big East Tournament, I think it will safely secure an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
The only on-court adjustment that needs to be made is to close out games. It is obvious the team has proven it can compete with the top teams in the country (i.e., Baylor, Syracuse, Georgetown).
So, save those nails.
You may need them during a back-and-forth ending to a game in the 2012 NCAA tournament.