West Virginia on the bubble after losing to Connecticut in first game of Big East tournament
Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 9, 2012 08:03
It's the time of year when a lot of college basketball teams start to sweat.
That moment after they've been eliminated from their conference tournament and they realize that there's a chance they might not have a good enough resume to make it into the NCAA tournament.
This season, one of the more intriguing bubble teams heading into Selection Sunday is West Virginia, who lost in overtime to Connecticut in the second round of the Big East Conference tournament.
The Mountaineers were one of the Big East teams that would have helped their tournament resumes out a lot by winning at least one game in New York this week.
But after blowing another lead late in the second half, the Mountaineers were sent packing and now have to wait on the selection committee to decide their postseason fate in a few days.
And that's a feeling that the players don't like having.
"Right now, I don't know what's going to happen on Sunday," said freshman point guard Jabarie Hinds. "We're just going to have to see what happens."
On paper, it looks like West Virginia should have a good chance to make the field of 68.
The major thing WVU will be able to hang its hat on will be what it was able to do against a difficult nonconference schedule.
The Mountaineers have four wins over top 50 teams and five more victories against teams currently ranked in the top 100 in the RPI.
But what could eventually cost them an at-large bid when the brackets are announced Sunday will be the struggles the Mountaineers went through in Big East play.
Counting its loss to UConn Wednesday, West Virginia is 9-10 in conference play – finishing under .500 for the first time since the 2003-04 season when it went 7-9 and played in the NIT.
"We've played more games against top 100 people than anybody in the country," said head coach Bob Huggins. "They say play a tough schedule, we have. We've played more games against top 50 teams (than anyone else).
"There were some other factors (in the losses) that were involved; it wasn't just us. You hope the committee looks at that."
For the players, the way they've slipped in the final part of the season was especially frustrating because of how they lost games.
Much like Wednesday, they were on the verge of getting a big win multiple times during that stretch but couldn't hang on.
And in the end, those results could determine their fate.
"I'm thinking we're in because we got 9-9 (in regular season Big East play), but you never know," said junior forward Deniz Kilicli.
"We've just got to wait and see on selection day."
For the Mountaineers' two seniors, being on the bubble isn't really the way they had pictured going out, but there's still a chance to revive the season by making it into the tournament and making a run.
"Me and Truck definitely wanted to go out winners of the Big East tournament our senior year, and it's tough (losing)," said senior Kevin Jones after WVU's loss to Connecticut.
"But it's the past now. We've got to keep on moving forward and hopefully make it into the tournament and try to make a run in the tournament."
Following the game, the players seemed optimistic about their chances to get in. They know they've won a lot of games against good teams, and they've held their own with some of the best.
But what does their coach think?
"We've done everything they've asked us to do other than maybe win a couple games," Huggins said.
For now though, they wait to see if wins over teams like Georgetown and Kansas State will be enough to get them a bid, or if losses to St. John's, Kent State and another Big East bubble team, Seton Hall,
will hurt enough to leave them out.
That wait will be the toughest part.
"I just want to continue to keep on playing, whether it's the NCAA tournament or
whatever, I just want to continue to play and be a college athlete as long as I can," Jones said.
"I think we've done enough to make it into the tournament. I feel, all in all, we've done enough to get into the tournament."