THE VIEWS from here:Counting tonight's game at St. John's, West Virginia's basketball team has 11 games left, plus the Big East tournament.
The road is getting bumpier. Six of the 11 are away from the Coliseum. Syracuse is Saturday's opponent.Talk, however, has already begun about the Mountaineers' magic number for at-large inclusion into the NCAA tournament.
As it stands, WVU is in fine shape. Before Tuesday evening's games, the Mountaineers were ranked anywhere from No. 11 to 13 in the mock Rating Percentage Indexes out there. The strength of schedule remains a solid No. 2.At 15-5 overall and 5-2 in league play, all's well on the (Big) Eastern front. But what is the magic number? Eighteen wins? Nineteen? Twenty?"I'd like to get to 26," WVU coach Bob Huggins said Tuesday. "Do that and you don't have to worry."He refused to point to a number. ("I don't do that," he said.) Leading to the next stop: nationally recognized RPI whiz Jerry Palm."That's hard to answer," Palm said of WVU's magic number. "As long as [the Mountaineers] avoid bad losses, they'll be all right. But there's no magic number. It depends on what everyone else does around the country."He warns against those "bad" losses, such as WVU's to Kent State. But he quickly pointed out the Mountaineers have "good" wins to offset that.
The point: Don't get caught up in the magic number talk. If WVU wins four in a row then loses seven straight, 19 won't cut it.Stay tuned.In Tuesday's Gazette, our Dave Hickman made a strong case for WVU's Kevin Jones as (so far) the Big East's player of the year.
I'll go a step beyond.Not only should Jones be considered as the Big East's player of the year and a first-team All-America selection, he should be looked upon as the front-runner for the national player of the year award.
I know. Sounds like the home-state newspaper guy touting the home-state kid. But check the stats. They back my claim.According to the NCAA statistics through Sunday's games, Jones was 10th nationally in scoring, averaging 20.7 points. Only one player who goes against comparable competition - Maryland's Terrell Stoglin - ranks higher. The nation's leading scorer was Damian Lillard of Weber State. My apologies to Damian, but he's not going to win the award.Stoglin is fifth, preceded by players from Oakland, Creighton and Albany. After him and before Jones are players from Evansville, Lehigh, South Dakota State and Sacred Heart. Immediately after Jones are players from IUPUI, Central Connecticut State, etc., down to Vanderbilt's John Jenkins at No. 17.Now, combine that with the rebounding numbers of Jones. After Sunday's games, he was No. 4 nationally. Again, there is but one player of national stature - Thomas Robinson of Kansas - ranked above the Mountaineer. Immediately below him are players from Delaware and UNLV, Arnett Moultrie of Mississippi State, Colorado's Andre Roberson, players from UNC-Wilmington and St. Mary's and Marshall's Dennis Tinnon.Put the numbers together, combined with the level of competition against which Jones plays, and the Mountaineer is the clear leader at this point.Yes, there's a but.
Jones will have to hurdle two very large obstacles. First, he's in the tent, but not in the main ring of the national hype circus: read ESPN. Second, he's not projected to be a high 2012 NBA draft choice, a la Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut, Anthony Davis of Kentucky, Harrison Barnes of North Carolina, Jared Sulliger of Ohio State and Robinson of Kansas. If any of those get hot, Jones' candidacy considerably cools.And finally . . .
If you ever questioned whether WVU made a good decision jumping to the Big 12, I submit one sentence for your consideration. It came via a Big East release, which announced Navy was joining the league for football beginning in 2015.Says it: "In 2015, the Big East football membership will consist of Boise State, UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Navy, Rutgers, San Diego State, USF and SMU."Ladies and gentlemen, I present Conference USA II.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.