Mine fields, Cyclones and Bears make WVU uncomfortable in February
There are 351 schools playing Division I basketball. About 200 of them don’t make much noise anywhere outside their own arena or campus. And then there is the burly Big 12 Conference where West Virginia must try to make its living.
Of the 10 teams in the Big 12, eight of them believe themselves to be headed toward the NCAA field of 65 when that dazzling tournament is on the March menu.
Those eight are also on the minds of the NCAA tournament selectors because all of them have credentials and juicy wins over Top 50 teams.
West Virginia is one of those eight, but even with 16 wins before last Tuesday’s game in Manhattan against surging Kansas State the Mountaineers aren’t guaranteed anything.
Counting that game in Manhattan, the Mountaineers had an even dozen games remaining, all of them in the Big 12 where nothing comes easy and pot holes and snares are as common as sagebrush and questionable officiating.
There were six games left on the road and six games for the Coliseum.
The least attractive of the teams coming to Morgantown is Texas Tech, an overlooked bunch that just defeated Oklahoma State in Lubbock.
The most attractive is Kansas, an annual goliath that seems to win every Big 12 regular season title.
In between the Jayhawks and Red Raiders are a slew of games against teams that may all receive bids to the NCAA tournament.
After seeing the attractions in little Manhattan, the Mountaineers return home to face Texas Tech, by far the least talented team left on the schedule. Texas Tech may be dead last in the conference with its 1-6 league record, but it has to be beaten because all the other games are difficult at best.
The timing of some of the remaining games could figure in whether games can be won.
Following Texas Tech there is a game at Oklahoma on Feb. 3. Then Baylor and Kansas State come to Morgantown.
There’s a 4 p.m. game at Iowa State on February 14 and back at home on Feb. 16 for a 9 p.m. game against Kansas. A hurried one day of preparation for Kansas is not ideal.
The last five games see the Mountaineers travel to Oklahoma State, Baylor and Kansas and get Texas and Oklahoma State at home.
Absolutely nothing is guaranteed when that is your schedule.
Coach Bob Huggins has used 13 players with Brandon Watkins and Chase Connor being the least of those getting playing time.
Tarik Phillip and Jaysean Paige were grounded and didn’t play against TCU. What is their future?\
Gary Browne has slipped and regressed in his recent games.
Jonathan Holton has emerged as more than just an important piece of WVU’s pressure defense. His minutes have been limited by constant foul trouble, but he stayed on the floor against TCU.
Against any and all of the remaining opponents there have to be quality games from at least a half-dozen players per night.
Daxter Miles, Jr. and Jevon Carter saved the TCU game with several last-second plays, especially Miles, Jr.’s long pass to Carter after the Horned Frogs scored a go-ahead basket with 1.9 seconds left in the overtime.
Devin Williams can’t afford any more sluggish games and neither can Juwan Staten.
What can Elijah Macon or Nathan Adrian provide of a positive nature?
West Virginia is not going to complete its schedule with just six or seven losses. If it could somehow go 6-6 in its last dozen games that would leave the record at 22-9 — easily polished and perfected enough to be called to the NCAA tournament.
Finding those six wins against the perilous bumps and nationally-ranked teams left on the schedule is going to take some high-quality games from six or seven players per night.
There are 351 teams playing Division I basketball, and West Virginia is going shark hunting against some of the nation’s best.