Mired in one of the worst stretches of basketball in the Bob Huggins era, the WVU men's basketball team appears to be teetering on the brink of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2007 NIT championship season. For a team that appeared to virtually be a lock after beating a surging Cincinnati team in Morgantown nearly a month ago, the possibility of that bid slipping away has to be a scary proposition. But how worried should we be?
From just glancing around at the national pundits' opinions today, the situation may not be as dire as we think.
Take, for example, Nicole Auerbach of USA Today. Her latest Bubble Tracker has WVU still in the tournament. She claims that if the Mountaineers can win at Pitt and beat either Notre Dame (in South Bend) or Marquette (in Morgantown), WVU should fall on the right side of the bubble. Ditto ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi, whose latest Bracketology lists WVU as a 10-seed. A falling 10-seed, mind you, but still squarely in the tournament.
Keep in mind that WVU doesn't have to meet a certain magic number of wins to get in. Quality matters, too. And maybe even more than that, the selection committee has to compare WVU's profile to the profiles of the other at-large teams to fill the field of 68. It's not like they can limit the number of teams to 57 if the quality suddenly starts to drop off. We just have to be better than the 69th best team in order to make it in.
All that being said, the Mountaineers still have to win some games, which is easier said than done given our recent penchant for finding a way to lose. I still think 20 wins gets us in, and 21 is probably a lock. Why is that? Because getting to those numbers would require holding serve at home against DePaul, winning a couple conference road games (2 out of Notre Dame, Pitt, and USF), beating Marquette, and/or winning a game or two in the Big East Tournament. That would round out the resume' rather nicely.
And really, as Huggs said in his post-game presser, the team is not that far off from winning. Early in the year, we came out on the good end of close games. Recently, we've been on the bad end. A call here against Syracuse, a better decision there against Louisville, and a couple breaks against Pitt or Notre Dame and we're talking about a totally different resume' right now. It's not like we haven't done this before. Kevin Jones is going to keep being Kevin Jones, and all we need is for someone else to step up. All of a sudden, Truck Bryant finds his shooting stroke and we probably rattle off 3 or 4 wins in a row. Maybe one of the freshmen gains some confidence and steps up. Maybe Deniz Kilicli can find the right feng shui between aggressively attacking the basket on offense and not channeling Andre the Giant on defense. All we need is a couple things to start going our way, we get our confidence back, and we're back to feeling good again.