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West Virginia is at a Pivotal Point in the Season

The Mountaineers will need to turn their fortunes around if the want a shot at the NCAA tournament

On Saturday afternoon, the West Virginia Mountaineers dropped its third straight game after a frustrating 68-55 loss at No. 18 Texas Tech. It's the first time the Mountaineers have hit a three-game skid since, well, in less than two years during the back half of the 2019-20 season.

A couple of freshmen named Miles McBride and McDonald's All-American Oscar Tshiebwe to go with All-Big 12 First Team selection Derek Culver hit a three-game skid in February before beating Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers went through another three-game losing streak following the win over OSU, and it appeared WVU was collapsing at the end of the season. However, the Mountaineers turned it around on the road at Iowa State, then capped off the regular season knocking off the top-ranked Baylor Bears, and suddenly the Mountaineers had momentum heading into postseason play. 

Unfortunately, we never got to see a tournament run with the world shutting down due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, there was optimism surrounding the team despite losing six of seven games. They were 18-4 prior and had notched wins over two top 25 opponents, so the optimism is justified. Although, under Huggins, West Virginia has made the NCAA Tournament once when suffering a three-game losing streak during the regular season, and they were handed a quick exit with an opening-round loss to Gonzaga. 

Jan 22, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers guard Sean McNeil (22) visits with Big 12 official Kipp Kissinger in the second half during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena.

Jan 22, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers guard Sean McNeil (22) visits with Big 12 official Kipp Kissinger in the second half during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It brings us to today. Naturally, if West Virginia has gone through a three-game skid streak in the regular season and only made the NCAA tournament once, of course, they have not made an appearance after suffering a four-game losing streak. There are different circumstances. For instance, the Mountaineers leading scorer Taz Sherman missed one game due to contracting COVID-19, and his return to recovery has seen a dip in production. Still, he may be close to 100% after registering 18 and 21 points in his last two outings, respectively, and he did it against two of the better defenses in the country. It's a big piece. Next, the three teams (Kansas, Baylor, and Texas Tech) they lost to have won the Big 12 Conference title in some form or another in the last three years and are vying for another one this season. So, I could have made it shorter, but they played good teams. 

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However, West Virginia has to start stacking wins despite the league, from top to bottom, becoming arguably the best conference college basketball has ever seen. It starts with Oklahoma on Wednesday night. The Mountaineers will welcome the Sooners to Morgantown, a group that is also desperate for a win, looking to end a four-game skid. It's a team that defeated 11th-ranked Iowa State. 

West Virginia will have to travel to Arkansas on Saturday for the Big 12/SEC Challenge, and they're on a four-game winning streak. Also, WVU has never won on the road in the event and is just 2-6 all-time. Then, the Mountaineers travel to Waco to take for a rematch against the defending national champion Baylor Bears before looking for revenge against Texas Tech and welcoming a top 15 Iowa State squad to the WVU Coliseum - it's not going to get any easier and they have to start beating some of the better teams in the country if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive.

The Mountaineers tip-off against the Sooners Wednesday at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised on ESPN2. 

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