2017-03-15 / Sports

What to do with WVU in my bracket?

Chip Shots
by Jim Buzzerd

Well, it’s that time of year known as March Madness and once again the West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Team will be a participant in the NCAA’s field of 68 teams. West Virginia was awarded a four seed in the West Region. The Mountaineers will face Patriot League champ Bucknell Thursday at 2:45 p.m. The 12th seeded Bison are 26-8 and enter Thursday’s game on a six game winning streak, including three wins in their conference tournament last week.

A WVU fan would like to think that Bucknell would be over matched against the Mountaineers, because they play in a nonpower conference. Of course any WVU fan who thinks that way has somehow been able to forget how 13th seeded Stephen F Austin ousted the third seeded Mountaineers in the first round last season.

Bucknell likely won’t be intimidated by the Mountaineers. Their early season schedule included five teams that made the tournament field and the Bison were 2-3 in those games. They lost at Wake Forest 94-74, lost at Butler 86-60 and dropped a 72- 70 decision to Princeton at home. Bucknell owns a 75-72 win at Vanderbilt and knockout of Mount St. Mary’s 81-65 at home.

All things considered, WVU should get by Bucknell Thursday and are currently favored by 13.5 points to do just that. Should the Mountaineers advance they would play the winner of Thursday’s opener in Buffalo between Princeton and Notre Dame. Interestingly had WVU held serve last season the Domers would have been their second round opponent.

Of course watching WVU struggle in three games in the Big 12 Championship last week was enough to keep one from being too bullish on the Mountaineers. WVU managed wins over Texas and nipped Kansas State by a point to get to the championship game where they lost to Iowa State 80-74.

On paper WVU benefitted from upsets on its side of the bracket. Ten seed Texas knocked off seventh seeded Texas Tech in the first round and Kansas State took out Baylor in the quarterfinals. TCU knocked out Kansas, which opened the door for Iowa State to advance to the championship.

On the one hand, the Mountaineers have been able post some wins, but in many cases they aren’t looking sharp in doing so. At no time in the Big 12 Championship did West Virginia look like the scary team they were in December and January. Against KSU WVU was 6-32 from the field in the first half, or 18.8%. If you watched it like I did you likely thought it was even worse than that.

West Virginia finished the game shooting just 26%, yet somehow found a way to be ahead 51-50 when the final buzzer sounded. In Saturday’s final, WVU looked much sharper in the early going taking an early eight point lead, but trailed at halftime 35-29 and by as much as 12 points in the second half.

While observing the Mountaineers’ stretch run, I think I see a team that has hit a wall. It’s like all of that energy they played with earlier in the season has expired and they are playing on fumes. Jevon Carter and Nathan Adrian have logged the most minutes and it shows at times. More so with Adrian, than Carter, because Carter shook off a sub par game against KSU and responded against Iowa State with an 18 point effort on 6-10 shooting and one turnover in 32 minutes of action.

So, as I ponder my brackets, I’m torn. I like WVU’s chances in the West Region better than if they had been a four seed in any of the other three regions, but they don’t look like a second weekend team right now. Thing is, I rarely fill out a bracket using my brain, so I’ll probably end up with WVU in the Elite 8.

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