NCAA tournament not out of equation for WVU
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 00:02
February has arrived, March is just around the corner and words such as "bubble," "RPI" and "bracketology" will become common diction among college basketball enthusiasts during the next few weeks.
The best time of year – March Madness – brings with it hope for thousands of universities, fans and student athletes around the country.
As of last night, 324 teams remain in contention to hoist the 2013 NCAA men’s tournament national championship trophy April 8 in the Georgia Dome, with only 23 teams being eliminated.
Participating in the best tournament in sports has become a common occurrence for West Virginia over the past decade.
The Mountaineers have earned a bid to the "Big Dance" seven of the last eight seasons, and each of the past five season since veteran head coach Bob Huggins took the helm.
This season, though, Huggins and the Mountaineers have had their fair share of struggles.
Non-conference defeats at the hands of Duquesne and Davidson and a stumbling 2-5 start in Big 12 Conference play left West Virginia in major danger of missing out on the spring fun.
However, two straight victories and a rejuvenated style of defense has boosted the Mountaineers to an 11-11 record overall and a 4-5 record in Conference play.
Now, before I go any further, let me first agree that WVU is clearly on the outside looking in right now in terms of earning a bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Mountaineers aren’t in Joe Lunardi’s first four out, next four out or any other reference of them holding any positioning near the last to squander an invitation.
But, this is a team that will have an opportunity to make a run at the end of the season and accomplish something no one – including myself – thought they could about two weeks ago: to go dancing for a sixth straight season.
Nine games remain in the regular season, and I am clearly no expert when determining who should earn a bid, but I anticipate WVU needing a 6-3 finish at the very worst to put itself in contention.
The Mountaineers will need to steal a couple games in Kansas City during the Big 12 tournament.
If those two things happen, Huggins and company will be around the 20-14 range, leaving them with a glimpse of hope on Selection Sunday.
I understand asking those things from this season’s Mountaineers may be a stretch, considering this team ranks 303rd nationally in shooting percentage and has left Huggins and his staff scratching their head more than a kid who went head first in to poison ivy.
But if you look at the remainder of the regular season schedule, it is filled with very winnable games for the Mountaineers.
Two matchups remain against TCU and Texas Tech – two teams West Virginia beat by an average of nearly 19 points in their first meetings of the season – home dates with Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and a road tilt against Oklahoma – all winnable games.
Other than road games against No. 5 Kansas – a team WVU gave fits in Morgantown - and No. 13 Kansas State – a team WVU should have beaten in Morgantown – there are few games left on the schedule where West Virginia won’t be the favorite.
The main negative for West Virginia’s resume at this point is its lack of marquee wins.
Now, I don’t want to get carried away, and I don’t necessarily believe West Virginia will be getting a call on Selection Sunday.
But I do believe this team is going to put itself in position to make a run to end the season and leave a glimmer of hope to keep its NCAA tournament streak alive, something that didn’t seem possible in mid-January.