MORGANTOWN — How good is West Virginia’s men’s basketball team?
That’s a question you are hearing a lot these days, which is a lot better than last year when the question making the rounds was how bad are were.
No one really seems to know.
Not even Bob Huggins or the players themselves, all of whom have expressed that even though they stand at 11-2 with one of the losses to powerful Kansas in a game the Mountaineers could have won on the road, they have not come near reaching their potential yet.
Even the ratings services can’t quite agree. We’re not talking about the polls here. Instead, we’re talking about the new NET rankings that the NCAA is now using to rate teams and that they will use to pick at-large teams and seed the NCAA Tournament in March.
As of Jan. 9, they have WVU outside the Top 10 — barely — at No. 11, a notch behind Wichita State, a team whose only loss came to WVU in Cancun, Mexico.
The RPI rankings, which the NCAA had used until this season, see WVU a whole lot better than that. At one point they actually had them rated at the top, and despite losses to St. John’s and Kansas still has them ranked No. 2 behind the Jayhawks.
Here are the NET and RPI rankings of the Top 10 up to date:
1 Kansas Big 12
2 San Diego St. Mountain West
3 Duke ACC
4 Butler Big East
5 Baylor Big 12
6 Auburn SEC
7 Gonzaga WCC
8 Michigan St. Big Ten
9 Dayton Atlantic
10 10 Wichita St. AAC
1 Kansas (11-2)
2 W. Virginia (12-2)
3 Auburn (14-0)
4 Duke (14-1)
5 Maryland (13-2)
6 Florida St. (14-2)
7 Villanova (11-3)
8 Butler (14-1)
9 Baylor (12-1)
10 Michigan St (12-3)
San Diego State, Dayton and Wichita State are NET Top 10 teams while WVU, Florida State and Villanova are RPI Top 10 teams.
There is also another highly regarded rating service on KenPom.com and that, like NET, has WVU No. 11 with Duke No. 1, Kansas No. 2, Michigan State No. 3 and — stunningly — Ohio State still as high as No. 4 with now four losses.
The point is that it’s pretty willy-nilly right now, which makes this Saturday’s game probably more important than any game this early in the conference should be.
The opponent is Texas Tech on Saturday night at the Coliseum, the first WVU has played there since Bob Huggins sophomore year, or so it seems.
That automatically makes the Red Raiders a quality opponent ... and don’t place any weight at all on the fact that NET has them at No. 34 or that they possess four losses in 14 games, for they just seem to be hitting stride.
And stride for them is a hard-playing defensive group who will test the Mountaineers’ ball handling skills — and that could be a problem standing last in the Big 12 in turnovers and just eighth in assists.
They also can shoot and run and understand that a road victory over the No. 11 team in the NET will do more for their resume than saying he was part of the Dallas Cowboys organization for 20 years does for Jason Garrett’s resume.
Until now, WVU has played down to its opposition and managed to squeak by.
In this one, they need to play more like their RPI rating than the NET rating if they expect to win.
But, if they win, the win almost certainly will be a big one by season’s end.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel