It’s conference games the rest of the way for the WVU men’s basketball team and despite a run of bad form, there is still a lot to play for in the Big 12 Conference. The Mountaineers (16-5) have 10 games remaining in the regular season, and though all will be tough, some will be tougher and more important than others.
Here is the ranking of the toughest games WVU has left on the 2018 schedule:
1) @ Kansas, Saturday, Feb. 17
This game will be the toughest because we’re playing the best team in the conference in the hardest place to win in the conference. Yes, Bill Self’s team has looked beatable at home, but until we do it, it’ll be something hanging over our heads. More than that, a win against Kansas would go a long way to helping us dethrone the Jayhawks from the top of the Big 12. Losing to them at home makes this game even more important.
2) @ Oklahoma, Monday, Feb. 5
Trae Young is a dynamic player and can hurt you even on a bad night. Going to play him and the Sooners in Norman will not be as “easy” as it appeared to be when handled them in Morgantown. This game also comes as part of those Saturday-Monday turnarounds and will be the third game in six days for the Mountaineers.
3) vs. Texas Tech, Monday, Feb. 26
Another Saturday-Monday turnaround for the Mountaineers will bring the most dangerous team in the conference to Morgantown for a late-season battle. Both teams will be fighting for a No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tournament and could also be battling each other for a chance at a regular season title. This game means a lot.
4) @ Texas, Saturday, March 3
The regular season finale sends the Mountaineers to Austin to play a team that has talent at the right positions that has given any WVU team under Bob Huggins fits: the front court. The Longhorns were blown out in Morgantown but that script could be flipped if the Mountaineers bring a shaky offense into the Frank Erwin Center.
5) vs. TCU, Monday, Feb. 12
WVU looked very bad against TCU in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs have also looked very good all season and haven’t shied away from a road battle. Even though WVU still holds a decided advantage in the all-time series, there is no doubt Jamie Dixon has coached this team to be a very strong team in the conference. Luckily, this Monday game comes after a weekend game at home.
6) @ Baylor, Tuesday, Feb. 20
WVU plays Kansas the Saturday before going to Waco. The Mountaineers will have to fly back from Lawrence to Morgantown, then out to Waco due to NCAA rules. The travel, plus with a potential of a “let-down game” and a very talented Jo Lual-Acuil Jr could be a recipe for disaster if the Mountaineers aren’t focused.
7) vs. Kansas State, Saturday, Feb. 3
I’ll be honest, there is no reason WVU should not handle K-State at home…other than the fact that the Wildcats have won five of their last six and are tied with WVU for the second-best conference record. This is a game that WVU needs to win to separate themselves from the rest of the Big 12, but a feisty K-State team will also be looking to do the same.
8) @ Iowa State, Wednesday, Jan. 31
Playing in Hilton Coliseum is always tough, but the Mountaineers have a little extra rest before making the trip to Ames. The Cyclones have struggled most of the season, but picked off Texas Tech and Baylor at home.
9) vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday, Feb. 10
Oklahoma State played WVU very well in the first conference game of the season back in December. The Cowboys have proven to be a scrappy team, but their offense and defense have waned and waxed throughout the season. This is a “do your job” type game for the Mountaineers.
10) vs. Iowa State, Saturday, Feb. 24
The Mountaineers should handily beat the Cyclones at home. But more importantly, they need to, as Texas Tech comes to the WVU Coliseum just two days later. This is a game where you cannot slip up; it needs to be done and dusted well before the end of the game.
The Big 12 Gauntlet has already taken its toll on the Mountaineers, but time will tell if it will begin to grind on Big 12 opponents as the season progresses.