MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In 43 years of coaching, you think you would have seen it all but West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has never seen four straight conference games at home. That is the situation No. 10 West Virginia is in this week, playing four Big 12 games in the Coliseum over an eight-day span.
“We’ve never done that before, we’ve never done that anywhere I’ve ever been before,” Huggins said. “It’s like playing in a conference tournament. That’s probably the best comparison I could make, a conference tournament.”
The homestand started on Saturday when the Mountaineers defeated Kansas State 65-43. West Virginia will then host No. 2 Baylor Tuesday, TCU on Thursday and Oklahoma State next Saturday. Playing four conference games without having to step foot on a plane is a blessing for the Mountaineers, whose typical travel time is upwards of two hours.
“It’s huge, in this league especially and for us especially,” junior Sean McNeil said. “Mostly every time we travel we’ve got anywhere from a two- to a three-hour flight there and back. So it’s huge to have this four-game stretch here at home to finish out the season.”
With such a rare opportunity before them, the Mountaineers made it clear that they want to take full advantage of this homestand and try to swing it into being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“We talk about it all the time,” senior Taz Sherman said. “We were watching the Iowa game [vs. Michigan on Thursday] and Emmitt [Matthews] texted our group chat, ‘a lot of top teams are losing, this is our chance to be a number-one seed.'”
Some teams might shy away from looking ahead to the national tournament or worrying about what see they are projected to be, but not this West Virginia team. This season’s Mountaineers want to be a No. 1 seed and they are not shying away from that goal. Sherman said point guards Miles “Deuce” McBride and Jordan McCabe are the team’s resident braketologists and keep everyone more or less up to date on what situation they are in.
“I understand that if we sweep our last four games at home, which is a big-time test going into tournament time, we should be comfortable on that one line, in my opinion,” McCabe said. “That means we beat Baylor and we beat a very good TCU and Oklahoma State team…That’s our goal and we don’t have to shy away from it.”
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has WVU as a No. 2 seed as of Saturday, eighth overall. With WVU’s next opponent, Baylor, currently projected as a No. 1 seed, Tuesday’s game could provide the perfect opportunity for the Mountaineers to make a jump in the seedings.
“We talk about stuff like that all the time, we’re trying to get the highest ranking possible,” Sherman said. “I think we’re a three [right now] and we could get up to a two with these four games, possibly even a one. We don’t focus on it too heavily, but we know it’s a possibility that we could get to a top seed so we’re aiming for that.”