MORGANTOWN — And then there was one.
One regular-season men’s basketball game, that is, for West Virginia University.
The Mountaineers will get a breather before flying to Austin, Texas, on Friday to face the Texas Longhorns at noon Saturday.
As with Iowa State and Texas Tech, WVU might catch a break in regard to the opposing team’s health. Texas big man and projected top-five NBA pick Mo Bamba missed Monday’s Kansas game with a left toe injury and is “in question” for Saturday’s game. That said, Texas (17-13) is desperate to get in the NCAA tournament, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bamba out there.
Whatever the case, this is a good time to stop and reset the Mountaineers’ position.
First, there’s this:
“We beat Texas Tech,” said WVU guard James “Beetle” Bolden. “So we’re second in the league. If we take care of business at Texas, I believe we lock that down and get a good seed in the Big 12 [tournament]. We’d get that bye, which is important for us to get rested and move forward.”
Indeed, WVU is second in the Big 12 to Kansas, which wrapped up its 14th straight regular-season conference title. If the Mountaineers finish there, it will mirror what the league’s coaches predicted in the preseason poll.
Also, if you wanted to look around Tuesday afternoon, this is where WVU sat elsewhere:
n No. 20 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
n No. 19 in the USA Today coaches poll.
n No. 26 in the Rating Percentage Index (RPI).
n No. 11 in the Pomeroy Rating.
n No. 9 in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI).
n No. 9 in the Sagarin Rating.
n No. 4 seed in Joe Lundardi’s latest “Bracketology” report, which is supposed to mirror the NCAA selection committee.
Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins’ focus?
“We’re just trying to win,” he said. “The biggest thing you can do for the NCAA tournament is enhance your seed. And you can’t enhance your seed unless you win.”
Yet back to Bolden’s point about the upcoming Big 12 tournament, which begins with two games next Wednesday.
Win or lose this coming Saturday, West Virginia will play on Thursday. The Wednesday games are for the conference’s teams that finish in the Nos. 7-10 seeds. That’s very fluid because, as of Tuesday afternoon, the only sure thing there was Iowa State will finish No. 10. Oklahoma and Baylor entered their game tied in sixth at 7-9.
Questions, however, arose after WVU defeated Texas Tech on Monday and leapfrogged the Red Raiders into second place at 11-6 in league play.
If West Virginia loses at Texas and Tech defeats TCU at home, which team finishes No. 2? WVU and Tech, after all, split their regular season games.
Well, in that case, Texas Tech would win the spot. According to Big 12 seeding and tiebreaker procedures, if the teams remain tied after considering head-to-head competition, “each team’s record versus the team occupying the highest position in the final regular-season standings” would be considered. One would then move down the rankings.
WVU lost both games this season to Kansas. Tech won at Kansas and lost at home.
Also, even if West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas State were to all finish 11-7, the nod would go to the Red Raiders. (The Wildcats played at TCU Tuesday night.)
The reason is, ties involving more than two teams are first broken “in a mini round-robin format, ranking the tied teams by winning percentage from highest to lowest.” WVU defeated K-State twice and Tech once. Texas Tech also defeated the Wildcats twice.
So the next step is to return to “the two-team tiebreaking system.”
In other words, if WVU (22-8) wishes to finish second in the Big 12 it probably must win Saturday.
“We just have to play our game and keep winning,” Bolden said.