Where will they land?
With two games and less than a week to go in the regular season, West Virginia University's status for the basketball post season is anything but settled. Two things would seem certain, those being WVU will qualify for the Big East Basketball Tournament and the Mountaineers will advance to play either in the NCAA or NIT tournaments. Beyond that, the possibilities are seemingly endless.
With the Mountaineers travelling to Pittsburgh last night to play the Panthers and hosting Cincinnati this Saturday many possibilities exist. As far as the Big East Tournament is concerned. WVU's chances to reach the field of 65 in the NCAA tournament were dealt a setback last Tuesday in a sloppy loss to Providence.
Heading into this week's play West Virginia's opponent in the first round of the Big East could mathematically be any one of 10 teams. That number would require many unlikely results to happen though. A more rational number is seven. Seven is the number of teams which could likely be a West Virginia opponent next week. WVU is 20-7 overall, but their 8-6 conference record on Monday easily projects to a 9-7 league mark at week's end. That would require a loss at Pitt and a win over the Bearcats.
What makes predicting who WVU will play so perplexing is the possibility that five other teams (Syracuse, Marquette, DePaul, Villanova and Providence) could all end up with identical marks. That would create a six way tie for fifth place and what is interesting is that a six way tie could actually occur. A quick glance at the remaining games suggests that if the favorites (a few tossups exist) hold serve there will be six 9-7 teams in the Big East field. Stay tuned to this.
Also unclear is what WVU needs to do to get into the NCAA tournament. Following the Mountaineers' win over second ranked UCLA the general consensus was WVU would be in with wins over Seton Hall and Cincinnati. Losses on the road to Georgetown, Providence and Pitt would not be enough to keep a 21-8 West Virginia team out of the tournament.
My thinking was right along those lines also, but I liked WVU a whole lot more with a win over Providence. Since then West Virginia was beaten soundly by Georgetown, played well enough to beat Seton Hall and shot a horrid 9 for 41 in a three point loss to Providence last Tuesday. Where that leaves WVU going into the Pitt game is anybody's guess, but here is my guess.
Obviously a win over Pitt and Cincinnati will go a long way to get West Virginia into the Big Dance. Ten days ago I would have called that scenario a lock, but a lot of teams have crept into the picture since then. With only a win over Cincinnati going into the Big East, WVU will need at least a win in the first round to secure a spot in the field of 65.
The X factor is how the selection committee may look at a Pitt loss. Does a blowout loss hurt WVU in the war room, or does a blowout count the same as a close loss? I surely don't know, that's why I think it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall while the selection process is going on.
In sum, I believe WVU needs two more wins to get into the tourney, and that does not make them a lock.