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For West Virginia Basketball, It Never Should Have Come To This

A deep run in the tournament can save a season, but should that be sufficient?

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

This current stretch of basketball by the West Virginia Mountaineers is bad. Very bad. The Mountaineers climbed to #2 in the country following a win against Trae Young and #7 Oklahoma. Since that ranking, West Virginia has beat unranked Baylor and unranked Texas while losing to #8 Texas Tech Red Raiders, #10 Kansas Jayhawks, unranked TCU Horned Frogs and unranked Kentucky Wildcats.

Sitting at 16-5 21 games into the season isn’t awful by any means. Losing to TTU on the road and losing to Kansas at home isn’t awful. Losing to unranked TCU on the road isn’t awful, but is shocking given they had never beaten us or a ranked opponent in their stadium. Losing to blue blood Kentucky isn’t bad.

You know what is bad? BLOWING DOUBLE DIGIT LEADS. Against Texas Tech, the Mountaineers were up 47-36 with 12:36 left in the game. From that point forward, the Mountaineers were outscored 36-24 over the final 7:24. That Saturday, in their own stadium, the Mountaineers took on Kansas.

West Virginia came out on fire, much like they did last night, and jumped out to big lead. With 5 and change to go in the 1st half, WVU held a 33-17 lead! At halftime that was a 41-28 lead. Kansas slowly chipped away at the lead but with 8 minutes left in the game, the Mountaineers still held a 55-45 edge. In the final 8 minutes of the game, KU outscored the Mountaineers 26-11.

Against TCU, Bob Huggins and Jevon Carter held a 31-24 lead with 4:14 to play in the 1st half. TCU took the lead with 1:01 in the 1st and never looked back. Last night was a killer. Against a young, inexperienced Kentucky team, West Virginia dominated the first half. Sagabe Konate was blocking shots out of the court and Jevon Carter had 18 points at halftime. A Beetle Bolden three near the end of the half lifted WVU to a 48-33 halftime score.

With 14:14 left, the Mountaineers still held a 56-47 lead. Again cold shooting, no defense and opponent adjustments saw Kentucky outscore the Mountaineers 37-21 over the last 14 minutes of the game.

I said this on Twitter and I stand by it, if this were the football team, the outcry from fans would be deafening. With College Gameday in your house, against a blue blood of the sport, you got complacent and let them back in the game. You allowed them to outscore you by nearly 20 in 15 minutes with freshmen.

The good news for basketball fans is that a deep run in the Big 12 Conference tournament and the NCAA tournament can save a season. If this team is able to go out and win the Big 12 tournament and then make it to the Elite 8 or deeper in the NCAA tournament, many fans will look at this season as a success. I’m just not sure it should be. You simply cannot blow these leads the way we are. It would have been one thing had the team been in a dog fight and hit a bad stretch at the end of games. It is another all together to have such large leads and simply forget how to get the ball in the basket.

West Virginia owns one of the most experienced guard combinations with Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles. Between the two 4-year players they have scored over 2,500 points. For such an experienced backcourt to have a stretch of games where they are unable to score is not acceptable at this point. More is expected and more is deserved.

There are 10 games left in this season before the Big 12 tournament and fingers crossed, the NCAA. 10 games to right the ship, figure out how to get big leads and keep them and make a deep run in two tournaments. The season isn’t over, but it never should have come to this.