Consistency wins games in NCAA tournament
The NCAA tournament will invite West Virginia to its annual 68-team clambake. West Virginia has won enough games, played a viable schedule and had the second-best record in the 10-school Big 12 Conference.
Is being invited as an at-large team going to satisfy the Mountaineers’ roster? Or will it bring them out ready to make life miserable for some 10th- through 12th-seeded opponent?
Pressure defense could possibly carry the Mountaineers past a first-round foe. But it won’t carry them to the Elite Eight or Sweet 16. Any team with a coach worth his million-dollar contract can overcome full-court pressure.
Consistent play in half-court situations wins games in the NCAA tournament. Inconsistent play from two or three players on the roster loses NCAA tournament games. And West Virginia is one of the kings of inconsistency.
Where will the Mountaineers be sent by the committee? What time will their game start? Travel shouldn’t be too bothersome for a team that had to wing it to conference outposts all over Texas, Oklahoma and bucolic Kansas. If the game starts at noon local time, will each of West Virginia’s players see the necessity of doing something useful before fully waking up?
Will this be another slow journey to defeat like the game with Stephen F. Austin was a couple years ago? The seniors kissed the Coliseum court before their final home game, and then the Mountaineers lost at Texas in an overtime game. West Virginia had battered Texas, 86-51, in a game in Morgantown. Will any player realize this is the season-closer if a loss comes out of the hat?
Whose minutes will be as fallow as the bleached sand of the Sahara Desert? Who will come off the bench and be a bundle of brains and successful three-point field goal attempts? Will the combination of Bender, Routt and Harler accomplish anything?
There won’t be six players with efforts that would inspire the ghosts of the old Fieldhouse to come back and yell their lungs out. If there are four players with the hustle, free throw accuracy, defensive rebounding and general basketball acumen, then West Virginia might win with those lonely four.
In its mostly inconsistent regular season, West Virginia defeated No.1-ranked Virginia, but lost a dreadful opener to Texas A&M by more than 20 points, fell to last-place Iowa State by 16 points in Ames and lost double-figure, second-half leads to a half-dozen teams. Holding leads has been a season-long problem.
Several players are capable of quality, game-winning efforts. Several more would raise eyebrows should they help out in any way.
West Virginia is in the NCAA tournament. Will that fact matter, or is a Stephen F. Austin clone just waiting in some remote locale to chase the Mountaineers back to the sanctuary of Morgantown?