In much the same way that Bob Huggins is losing heart with his team, my capacity for writing and commenting on WVU Men’s Basketball (17-12 / 7-9) is at a new low. It’s remarkable to me that only a month ago I and other Mountaineer fans were dreaming big dreams. Now we're hoping to wake up from a bad dream, our team having lost seven of the last nine games and most likely played themselves out of a Top 8 Big East Tourney seed and the NCAA Tournament.
And it’s not just the losses; it’s the kind of losses that has sucked the life out of Mountaineer fans. The slide began with a blow out loss to a St. John’s team with a losing record, a nail biter at Syracuse (where we were screwed on a no-call of goal tending by the refs), and then a demoralizing loss to Pitt at home. Five of our seven losses were winnable games, if only we’d had a better defensive effort from some, and if Kilicli & Bryant had made easy baskets.
WVU has blown big leads, we’ve been out-hustled, and according to Huggs, we’ve been "out-manned." That last dig was the coach's final attempt to appeal to the manhood of his players. It remains to be seen which freshman will respond and which will ask for permission to transfer to another school. While it does little good to do so, I’m at the point of pointing fingers. Our coach has lit into the freshman quite a bit, and it seems that he is particularly frustrated with Aaron Brown. That would explain why the team’s best 3-point shooter has spent most of the season on the bench (averaging only 15 minutes a game).
However, here on Senior Night at The Coliseum, I have to hold Turk & Truck to a higher level of responsibility than the youngsters. Bryant’s shooting has been painfully bad for most of the season and Kilicli has been inconsistent in his effort (I concur with WVUIE97’s take that Huggs' post-Marquette comments were as much about Deniz as the new kids). My only hope is that Huggs’ efforts to call out his guys will successfully snap the lot of them out of whatever funk they’re in.
Tonight's home game against lowly DePaul (11-17 / 2-14) couldn’t have come at a better time. In case anyone cares, this is the scenario that has to play out for WVU to earn a Top 8 seed for the Big East Tourney (and a first round bye): We have to beat both DePaul and USF (in Tampa), Seton Hall would need to lose to DePaul in their regular season finale, and UConn would have to lose one of their two final games against Providence or Pitt.
Assuming they could pull off a 9-9-conference record, I now think WVU has to win at least one Big East Tournament game to get an at-large Big Dance invitation.
Given the mental condition of the Mountaineers, I have very little hope for such an outcome. My optimism tank is running on fumes.
Tonight’s contest is televised on Big East Network affiliates and can also be seen on ESPN3. Tip off is at 7:00 p.m.