The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 11, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU’s fate lies in Big 12 record

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s men’s basketball team finds itself in really a strange situation, looking at its move from the Big East to the Big 12 as being the reason it will make the NCAA Tournament this year or the reason it will miss the NCAAs.

It’s sort of a case of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Here’s the situation. WVU is 17-13 in regular-season play, which is not good, but it is 9-9 in Big 12 play, which can be considered good as it heads into the conference tournament which begins Wednesday in Kansas City.

See, here’s the deal. The Big 12 is the best conference in America, so finishing at .500 would seem to qualify you for the NCAAs.

“How much weight do you put on this being the No. 1 RPI league in the country?” answered coach Bob Huggins, when asked how he views the situation his team is in. “How much do you put on we’re 9-9 and finished a game ahead of two people (Oklahoma State and Baylor) they are saying are going to get in?”

Oklahoma State and Baylor each won more than 20 games, though, and Huggins understands that 17 wins isn’t going to do it, not even if they played in the NBA.

That, of course, makes the Big 12 Tournament WVU’s entire season, and Huggins admits that.

“I’d feel a lot better if we would win a couple more,” he said. “I’d sleep a lot better Saturday night.”

Two wins would get the Mountaineers to the conference final, and no committee could possibly overlook that.

The Mountaineers probably bit off a lot more than they could chew, playing the toughest schedule Huggins has ever played, and tight losses to teams like Gonzaga and Wisconsin and Purdue and Missouri didn’t help matters, all of them being winnable games.

And then there was an inexcusable loss to Virginia Tech, a really dreadful team in which they blew a 17-point lead, that is an albatross hanging around their necks as they beg for inclusion in the NCAAs.

Again, though, it comes down to how important it is for the selection committee to understand the strength of the Big 12 this year.

Tubby Smith won a national champion at Kentucky and has coached in the SEC, the Big 10 and now the Big 12 at Texas Tech. He was asked to compare the conference to those he previously coached in.

“It’s the best, as far as talent,” he said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches’ conference call. “This league is by far the toughest in the country, and I think eight teams could conceivably get in.”

Eight teams … Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State and … West Virginia?

Kansas coach Bill Self sees it that way, too.

“You’ve got eight teams – when we saw what WVU did to us the other day, how in the world are they not considered to be in the tournament going 9-9 in our league?” Self said.

Can this league be that good to warrant eight teams?

Huggins says take a look at the all-conference selections. Not the first team. Honorable mention.

Isaiah Austin (Baylor), Wayne Selden Jr. (Kansas), Naadir Tharpe (Kansas), Thomas Gipson (Kansas State), Will Spradling (Kansas State), Ryan Spangler (Oklahoma), Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Kyan Anderson (TCU), Javan Felix (Texas), Cameron Ridley (Texas), Isaiah Taylor (Texas), Eron Harris (West Virginia).

“Those guys would be all-conference in other leagues,” Huggins said, and he has a case.

What happened, though? What happened in this country that once had the ACC and the Big 10 as major basketball conferences and the Big 12, quite frankly, not very much interested in the sport.

One thing was realignment, which left the Big 12 as the only 10-team conference, not playing a divisional schedule, instead playing a true round-robin, home-and-home where every team plays every other team twice.

“I think it’s the best basketball conference in the country,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “From the time I got here 16 years ago I never thought divisional play was what it should be. We all felt cutting down to 10 teams would benefit basketball more than anything. It benefitted rivalries. You can feel them building, and a true round-robin gives you a true champion.”

Huggins noted that a smaller league seems to have better players, pointing back to the Big East before it became an 18-team giant.

“Think about it with Chris Mullen, Walter Berry, Patrick Ewing, Ronnie Seikaly and you could go on and on,” he said.

Now go to this year’s Big 12 first-team all-conference: Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane and WVU’s Juwan Staten.

It’s a pretty impressive group … Huggins is hoping good enough to make an impression on the selection committee when all is said and done.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.
    The 80-year-old Star City resident led the Mountaineers to a 30-4 record as the starter from 1952-1955. Percentage-wise, it’s clearly the best-ever record by a QB in school annals.
    Wyant, a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, came here after graduating with honors from Weston High School. That’s where WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis signed him to a four-year scholarship.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 22, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos