By Jay Fisher
WVU has managed to win the three games since the excruciating loss to Kansas. The last two were a home win over usual nemesis Texas, and a nailbiter at TCU.
Against Texas, the Mountaineers overcame a slow start, but Lamont West ignited a first half run that pushed WVU out to a commanding 46-32 halftime lead. They held the Longhorns at bay throughout the second half, withstanding multiple mini-runs by Texas, but never being truly threatened with losing the lead.
The TCU game was back-and-forth. WVU’s biggest lead was 9, and the Horned Frog’s largest lead was just 3. This was a big win, because TCU had labelled this a “must win” and called it their biggest game of the year. The Frogs are a bubble team, and desperately need another quality win to help their resume for the NCAA tournament. So, basically, WVU took a team’s best shot – at their place – and managed to escape with a win.
They have just two games left in the regular season, but they are big ones: at Baylor (Monday night), and hosting Iowa State (this Friday). All three (WVU, ISU, Baylor) are battling for second place in the Big 12, and right now WVU and Iowa State are tied, with Baylor one game behind. It is also a chance for two quality wins that will be important for NCAA seeding.
Obviously, both games are winnable. And both could be losses. Baylor is very tough to beat at their place, but I do think WVU should be favored to beat Iowa State in Morgantown. WVU has shown they are tough when focused, and that should not be a problem in either game. It looks like if the Mountaineers beat the Cyclones on Friday, they will finish second, regardless of what happened against Baylor. And Bob Huggins really wants to finish second.
The NCAA Selection Sunday is less than two weeks away now, and right now, bracketologists seem to be pegging WVU for a 4 seed. Two wins this week probably moves them up to a 3 seed, with the Big 12 tournament having the potential to add (or subtract) another seed level. While WVU is a 2-3 seed when you look at polls and computers, the Mountaineers don’t have a great RPI, which is a key component for the selection committee.
The rifle team is doing what it does best: getting ready to defend its NCAA title. They had two important meets last week. The first was the NCAA qualifier, and WVU had the top score nationally in that. The second was their conference meet, and the Mountaineers won the GARC title again. It appears they are peaking at the right time. They head to Ohio State next weekend for the NCAA Championships.