WVU makes productive return to court
There will be about 1,000 people to dust off the seats in the Coliseum, but only relatives of the players and coaches, a few handful of their guests, some selected students and another few boosters will be allowed in the 14,000-seat arena. There will be no public sale of tickets.
Florida will be the opponent — the last of this season’s non-conference games. The Gators were 8-4 over all, and 5-3 in SEC games, as of Jan. 25.
West Virginia — despite already enduring three conference postponements, because of COVID-19 — has played 14 games, enough to at least meet the NCAA standard to qualify for the National tournament.
After being unable to play any games for two weeks, WVU finally returned to the court last Saturday and drilled Kansas State, 69-47, in a road game.
Even a win over the conference’s last-place Wildcats was a morale booster after a last-seconds loss at home to Texas. Missed free throws, often the achilles-heel of WVU teams, ruined the Mountaineers in the home loss to the Longhorns.
Kansas State — the winner of one Big 12 game — had 28 turnovers. Of WVU’s 22 field goals, there were 17 assists.
Taz Sherman and Jordan McCabe replaced Emmitt Matthews and Sean McNeil in the starting lineup, while redshirt freshman Jalen Bridges continued to start.
Now ranked in the Top 15, the Mountaineers continue to march forward toward an NCAA Tournament bid. With a 10-4 overall record and 3-3 in the Big 12, WVU has a respected eye on one of 68 berths available in the NCAA Tournament.
Still attempting to outrun and outmaneuver the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA will play the entire tournament in the state of Indiana.
There will be six tournament sites — four in the city of Indianapolis, as well as in West Lafayette (Purdue) and Bloomington (Indiana).
Hinkle Field House on the campus of Butler University will be one of the sites in Indianapolis.
Hinkle Field House was the setting for the state championship game in the movie “Hoosiers.”
In the Big 12 standings, Kansas has not been as lethal as in the past. The Jayhawks won’t win the regular season title. Highly ranked Baylor and Texas have crested. Only Kansas State has been unable to do much and TCU won’t win the regular season either.
The Big 12 Tournament, as of now, is still scheduled to be played in Kansas City.
If the Mountaineers can get five players scoring in double figures like they did in beating Kansas State in Manhattan, they would be in games played anywhere.
Watch the scoring of Sherman, who did well in the second half of the scorching of the Wildcats, because players like Gabe Osabuohien won’t do much scoring at all.
Osabuohien doesn’t make free throws, and Derek Culver continues to convert only about 50 percent of his foul shots.
The 1,000 faces scattered in the spacious Coliseum should be witness to a competitive game against Florida . . . and for the rest of the still-disjointed season.