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Jones vs. Pope on ESPN2 - A Seton Hall "Preview"

WVU is 10-3 overall, 1-0 in the Big East conference. I think it is fair to say that if the Mountaineer Basketball Team wins 20 regular season games and at least 9 games in conference, they’ll make the NCAA tournament. At the start of this season, if I was certain we’d get to the tournament I’d have been thrilled. However, with only 3 returning players I wasn’t getting my hopes up very high.

Now they’re up. Pretty high.

I’m one of those guys who think in worst-case scenarios. I can only handle the pressure if I know there is nothing fatal at stake. At the start of the football season, I was naïve enough to hope that if we beat LSU we could run the Big East table and have a shot at the national championship. I admit, I was thinking with my heart and not my head, and therefore I was pissed when we lost. But once the LSU game was in my rearview mirror, the worst-case scenario was then a low level bowl. The pressure was off for the most part. Going to the Orange Bowl was an unexpected treat.

At this stage of the basketball season, I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t make the NCAA Tournament. So, to deal with the pressure of losing unexpected games or bearing with freshmen that screw up at untimely moments, I have already analyzed which games we can afford to lose and which ones we can’t. So, forgive my pessimism if you must see it that way.

WVU has 18 games left – 17 in the Big East. We must win 9 of those games and at least 8 games have to be conference wins. I assume we can beat Marshall. That’s one. If I were a betting man, I’d put the following seven games in the "Preliminary Win" column: 2 against Rutgers (Away & HOME), Cincinnati at HOME, St. John’s Away, Notre Dame at HOME, DePaul at HOME, South Florida Away. Assuming we don’t blow any of these games, we’re still one game short of a .500 conference record and a 20-win regular season.

Where will that elusive win come from? Let’s hope we’ll steal a couple on the road from teams who underestimate us. I’m hoping that begins tonight against Seton Hall (11-2). The Hall got whacked by Syracuse 75-49 on Wednesday night. The Pirates are within our reach and picking up a road win in New Jersey would be a huge step forward. It will be a Scoring/Rebounding showdown between Kevin Jones (21/12) vs. Herb Pope (20/11), with both coming off statistically lower than usual games.

The Big East's two best scoring and rebounding forwards square off with their young teams tonight on ESPN2. Tip off is 9:00 p.m.