West Virginia University’s post-season basketball fortunes remain very much up in the air as the Mountaineers head into the final week of the regular season. A road win over Rutgers on Sunday leaves WVU with an 18-10 record overall and 9-7 in the Big East Conference. Some say the Mountaineers are in the field of 68, others say they have work to do. Either way, the thinking that WVU has work to do would serve the team well this week.
Say West Virginia loses home games Wednesday to Connecticut and Saturday to Louisville. Then say they follow that up with an opening round loss next Tuesday in the Big East Tournament. That would leave West Virginia with an 18-13 record and trending downward. Not many 18 win teams make the big dance, but even with three straight losses WVU would likely have strong numbers for the selection committee to consider. The Mountaineers strength of schedule would still be very high and their RPI would likely remain in their favor.
The problem with that scenario is, well, problematic. At 18-13 West Virginia is going to be in a pool of teams with weaker numbers, but perhaps more wins. Another hurdle is being compared with a team that finished the season on a hot streak and one that is 4-7 in February and March.
So, if you are one of those who say West Virginia is in at this point regardless of what happens, just don’t bet the ranch.
Looking at next week’s Big East Tournament, WVU may need to win both games this week just to finish in the top eight teams and earn a first round bye. A 10-8 conference record, a record WVU would have with a split this week, will usually find a team in the top half of that league. Right now 10-8 looks like it could be tiebreaker city with some 10-8 teams getting a bye and the rest playing in the opening round on Tuesday.
Right now the Mountaineers are in a five-way tie for seventh place. They own tiebreakers over Cincinnati and Georgetown, but would lose tiebreakers to Villanova and Marquette. They have yet to play UCONN, so that tiebreaker will be determined Wednesday. With that said, head to head is not the only tiebreaking method used by the Big East in multi-team tiebreakers.
If you want to swim in some scenarios go to the Big East website http://www.bigeast.org/Sports/MensBasketball.aspx for some interesting reading.
Believe it, or not, West Virginia coach, Bob Huggins, has been receiving some criticism for his coaching this season. The loss of his freshman class has been documented and is a setback he and his staff have to be held accountable for to some degree. Then there is the other side of the debate where more open-minded folks realize what Huggins is doing with the fallout and call it one of his better efforts ever.
For all of you, here is a number to chew on. WVU’s win at Rutgers on Sunday gives Huggins an 18-18 road record in the Big East. By comparison, John Beilein was 13-27 and Gale Catlett was 17-43.