The next two weeks are going to be very interesting for West Virginia basketball. WVU will either be dancing in March or will be left out of the 68-team field for the second-straight season.
There’s a lot of pressure on the program to take care of business in the final four guaranteed games before Selection Sunday. West Virginia is currently 16-12 heading into a two-game road stint at Kansas and Iowa State, the two hardest environments in the Big 12.
Looking at how the bubble is playing out, West Virginia should need just two more wins to secure their NCAA Tournament bid. And honestly, if the Mountaineers are rolling as they have at times, I wouldn’t want to see them as an 11-seed in the tournament.
But let’s pedal back for a moment.
After WVU hits the brutal road trip, the Mountaineers will host a ranked Kansas State team on senior day before heading to Kansas City to play in the first round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament, most likely facing a fiery hot Texas Tech team.
WVU needs to go 2-2 in that stretch, it doesn’t matter how they do it. West Virginia fans also need to remember that the most winnable games are on the backend of that stretch. This team has had trouble closing out road games this season and is going into two environments that are hard to win at. If West Virginia does pull off an upset at Phog Allen or Hilton? Be excited.
Looking at the other side, if West Virginia does in fact miss the NCAA Tournament, the coaching staff will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what needs to be fixed. Just a year ago, this program was left with just Kedrian Johnson and four freshmen who played limited minutes off the bench. Everyone criticized Bob Huggins and his staff for being behind with the transfer portal era and they went out and got four quality players with Erik Stevenson, Tre Mitchell, Joe Toussaint and Emmitt Matthews. The staff also picked up MAAC Preseason Player of the Year Jose Perez, who’s expected to stay and suit up for the Mountaineers in 2023-24.
A lot would look at this season as a disappointment if WVU missed the tournament. I understand why some would think that, but you have to look into it more than a win-loss record. WVU flipped their entire roster and brought in nine new players from different levels. The program also lost two main assistants in seven months: Erik Martin took a head coaching job at South Carolina State and Larry Harrison was dismissed mid-season. This is also while playing in the best basketball conference in the country, by the way.
Yes, the program should expect more from a Basketball Hall of Fame head coach but there’s more to it when you look deeper. I think it’s fair to give Huggins and his newer-look staff more time to turn this ship around.
For now, short-term, West Virginia just needs to figure out how to get two more wins.
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