By Jay Fisher
WVU couldn’t overcome Baylor on the Bears’ home court, but that ended up not impacting the Big 12 seeding. The Mountaineers clinched the 2-seed by pulling away from Iowa State with an emphatic 87-76 win over the Cyclones.
Against Baylor, WVU was overwhelmed on the boards, with Baylor outrebounded WVU by 20, and their defense held West Virginia to under 40% shooting. It was far from a great performance by the Mountaineers, but they were able to bounce back against Iowa State.
In that season finale, Esa Ahmad returned to the lineup after back spasms forced him to miss the trip to Texas. While he showed rust, his return was certainly a plus, because a healthy Ahmad will be important for a long March run. Also, Daxter Miles had his best offensive game in a long time, scoring a season high 23 points. Having him as a legitimate scoring threat will also help win tournament games.
The tournaments start now. The Big 12 tournament will be first, followed by the NCAA tournament next week. WVU is the second seed in the Big 12, behind Kansas. They will face the winner of Texas Tech vs Texas on Thursday in the quarterfinals. If they win that one, the semi-final game on Friday will be against the winner of Baylor- Kansas State. The finals, if they can advance, will be Saturday evening.
Then on Sunday, the real fun begins. CBS will host Selection Sunday at 5:30. The Mountaineers are likely no worse than a four-seed. How high can they climb? It’s possible that a win over Baylor would move WVU up to a three-seed. A win over Kansas could push them up to a two-seed. Of course, none of these games happens in a vacuum, and the results of other games will also have an impact on WVU’s seeding.
[private] The Mountaineers are an interesting case for the seeding committee. In analytics-driven ratings, WVU is very high (they are 3rd in KenPom and Jeff Sagarin rankings, and 5th in ESPN BPI). But in the outdated RPI favored by the committee, the Mountaineers don’t fare as well. Also, the committee will probably not be overly forgiving of the losses to Temple and Oklahoma.
Another team heading to their March Madness is the women’s basketball team. They appeared to be squarely on the bubble heading to the Big 12 tournament, but a pair of wins over ranked teams has moved them safely in the tournament. They obliterated Oklahoma 82-58, and then upset Texas, 62-59 to advance to the finals against Baylor. Regardless of that result, they will hear their name called on their Selection Monday show (ESPN, 7:00 on March 13). Of course, with WVU’s seeding history, they will end up seeded 8 or 9 and be paired to face Connecticut in the second round.
Notes: WVU’s quarterfinal game is scheduled for 7:00 on Thursday on ESPNU…The semifinal game would be 9:00 on Friday, either on ESPN or ESPN2 (the channel is still undetermined)…The final is set for 6:00 Saturday, on ESPN…Big Congratulations to Roane County’s Dylan Cottrell. The 165 pounder won the Big 12 Championship this past weekend. He is the first WVU wrestler to win a Big 12 title. He and others will represent WVU in the NCAA Championships later this month. [/private]