Through 17 games, West Virginia holds a 13-4 overall record and 2-3 record in Big 12 play. As good as the record may seem, the Mountaineers are entering some dangerous territory having already dropped four games.
Seven of the team's final 13 games come against ranked teams including four of their next five Big 12 matchups. Every win from this point forward will be earned. How is that? Well, the entire Big 12 Conference is ranked in the top 65 of the NCAA's Net Rankings meaning every team would be in the tournament if they solely used that formula to give out at-large bids. Heck, even Oklahoma State is playing good basketball right now and they're not even eligible for postseason play due to recruiting violations from a former assistant way back in 2016-17.
Head coach Bob Huggins discussed the tough road ahead during his postgame interview following the loss to Baylor on Tuesday night.
"The league is so hard. Think about the coaches in this league. First time I went in there and I looked around the table and I'm thinking, wow. At that time there were six or seven Final Four coaches and several who have been to multiple Final Fours," Huggins said. "It's a great coached league and the players are good. This league has had more No. 1 picks than any other league. And when you think, this is the smallest league and it had the most first round picks. It also had the most first picks in the draft. It also had the most people drafted. This is a 10-team league and some of those leagues are 20 [teams] and this league continues year after year after year to put more people in the league. We don't have a gimme. There's no gimme's in this league. People say, well, what about Kansas State? Well, Kansas State just beat somebody and they will continue to because Bruce [Weber] can coach and they've got good players."
As challenging as the rest of the schedule is, I can't get myself to count out Bob Huggins. The man just finds ways to win even if it's the most unconventional way. One of the best things about Huggins is that he's not stuck on playing any certain style of basketball. He adapts to his roster year in and year out. This season, he has no inside presence and honestly, no consistent scoring outside of Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil. This team is going to have to win games with its defense and if they place even more of a value on that end of the floor, they'll find more success.
What I think will be a big problem with this group is winning on the road. Teams will start to zero in on Sherman and force the others to beat them. Ball security is a major issue for the Mountaineers and when the pressure gets turned up a notch or two on the road, I don't know if they have the mental toughness to withstand it over the course of a 40 minute game.
West Virginia's biggest enemy (the daunting schedule) is also its biggest ally. Pretty much any Big 12 team that ends up on the NCAA Tournament bubble can point to their strength of schedule and say they deserve to be in. Going 7-11 or 8-10 in the Big 12, in my opinion, is better than going 10-8 or 11-7 in the ACC or PAC 12. However, the Mountaineers do need to add a signature win or two to bolster their resume. If the season ended today, their best win would be against No. 25 UConn. That win alone won't be enough to assure you a spot in the big dance. Opportunities will be there for the Mountaineers including home matchups with Kansas, Iowa State, Texas, and Texas Tech still remaining. Then of course pulling out a road victory or two over a ranked opponent will go a long way as well.
West Virginia will have a chance to add to that resume this Saturday when they hit the road to take on the No. 18 Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas.
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