On Sunday, Dec. 29, West Virginia men’s basketball upset then-No. 2 Ohio State in convincing fashion. The Mountaineers didn’t just beat the Buckeyes, they took a 67-59 win home with them from Cleveland in front of a national audience.
Being one of a handful of marquee college basketball games occurring after Christmas, WVU was bound to receive a bump in notoriety after the win.
WVU moved up to No. 16 in the AP Top 25 Poll (a six-spot jump), up to No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and No. 10 in the NET Rankings. This popularity comes in the week leading up to the Big 12 Conference opener against No. 3 Kansas.
Perhaps the most jaw-dropping dap up comes from Jerry Palm of CBS Sports. He has projected WVU to be a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region in his latest Bracketology prognostications. Palm rates WVU as the fourth-highest overall seed for the tournament.
This would be the first time WVU would receive a No. 1 seed in the tournament, although seeds were not utilized until 1978, so the 1959 runner-up team was not seeded.
Palm seems to be high on the Big 12 this year, putting seven teams in the tourney. He has Baylor as a No. 1 seed, in the South Region (the second-best team overall), as well as Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas.
The Midwest Regional will be played in Indianapolis, March 26 and 28, in Lucas Oil Stadium. Interestingly, the projected No. 2 seed in the Midwest is Ohio State. Texas Tech is the projected No. 10 seed in the region.
WVU could be an easy case for a No. 1 seed (as could Baylor), as the team has six games against current top-25 opponents on the schedule and more could pop up as conference play rolls on. The Mountaineers begin Big 12 play against the No. 3 Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kansas, and will have a home game against them as well, plus two games against No. 6 Baylor and No. 22 Texas Tech. This would bolster a resume that already includes two top-25 wins and the Cancun Challenge championship.
But is this respect given too quickly? Is it a reaction to a big win in the lull of the season? Before appearing at No. 25 in the AP Poll in week seven, the Mountaineers were receiving little praise for an undefeated start. Now, in just three polls, WVU has gone from “receiving votes” to No. 16, and seemingly higher in some pundits’ minds.