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.
[private] WVU’s swimming teams had solid showings in the Big 12 Championships. The men finished second, while the women checked in fourth. There were a few team records set, but nearly all swimmers swam season or even lifetime bests. Many underclassmen had strong finishes for the Mountaineers, so it appears they should be pretty strong in the next couple years. Several swimmers achieved NCAA “B” cuts, which is a consideration time (“A” cuts are automatic qualifiers). It appears unlikely that any will make the field, although they will be close. If they continue their improvement, you could see multiple men and women qualify for the NCAA Championships next year.
The baseball team had a great weekend in Myrtle Beach. They won all three games, including a 22-9 slugfest over defending national champion Coastal Carolina. The Chants are currently ranked #18, so this was a quality win. The Mountaineers have a four game win streak, and sit at 4-2 on the year. Their home debut is scheduled for March 14.
Notes: Friday’s game against Iowa State starts at 7:00, and will be on ESPN2…WVU will start its Big 12 tourney on Thursday, March 9. I will have the sequence of games, with starting times and TV info next week…WVU was 12th and 13th in the major basketball polls this past week. But with losses by higher ranked teams, you could see them move into the Top 10. [/private]