by Jim Buzzerd
The West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Team used much of January to go on a seven-game losing streak. The Mountaineers ended that skid on February 8 with a 79-63 home win over Iowa State. West Virginia has since gone on a six-game losing streak heading into last night’s game at Oklahoma. By anyone’s math that is 13 losses in 14 games and the Mountaineers have a losing record at 14-15, 3-13 in the league. If you still care, those numbers will tell you this team was 13-2 in early January.
Barring a miracle run to the championship of the Big 12 Tournament, WVU is out of the NCAA field this season. Looking through some info on the National Invitational Tournament, it appears there is no longer a requirement for a team to be at least .500 to be included. That leaves me, at least, questioning the value of extending the season via playing in the NIT, should an invite be extended.
Teams have been known to opt out of the NIT before. Normally I would advocate to play as many games as possible, but my reasoning for that is largely due to getting younger players more time on the court for the following season. Now there is a new normal emerging with NIL opportunities and the transfer portal. The current WVU roster is likely to suffer massive changes by the time next October rolls around. I’ve seen some people suggest as many as 10 players might depart. We know Taz Sherman, Gabe Osabuohien, Malik Curry, Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan have no eligibility remaining. Sean McNeil and Kedy Johnson have another year if they want it. Because of social media there has been no shortage of innuendo in cyber space that some underclassmen are not happy. Just a feeling I have, but if WVU can get two more wins the NIT could offer, but I could also see the Mountaineers decline the offer.
There was no sign of quit in the Mountaineers last week, only frustration and heartbreak as WVU lost two heartbreakers. In the 84-81 loss at Iowa State, West Virginia led 81-80 with 28 seconds left, but succumbed when they gave up an easy basket against the Cyclone press.
At home Saturday against Texas West Virginia built a 64-54, 10-point lead with 10:30 to go in the game, trailed by four late, but had a chance to win it at the buzzer when a Curry jumper in the lane rimmed out at the buzzer to lose 82-81. Curry had his best day in a WVU uniform with 27 points, but couldn’t get the game winner to drop.
Want a positive to take away from last week? The Mountaineers’ score surpassed 80 points in both games. Perhaps a sign that the effort is still there. WVU hadn’t eclipsed the 80-point barrier since an 82-52 win over Youngstown State on December 22. Of course, the flip side is the team lost both games allowing a total of 166 points in two games.