I’ll be candid with you for a moment: I did not see this conversation coning. IT wasn’t long ago I was in Stillwater and I was talking to some folks and the theory was WVU had a make-or-break occasion three days later against Baylor and a rather grim outlook beyond that.
We were having NIT and CBI conversations. Someone did a google search to discover CBI home games cost $35,000 for the first round, $50,000 for the second round and $75,000 for a semifinal game and to confirm the CIT is for mid-majors.
Today? Well, now I’m researching 10-win teams from power conferences that haven’t made the NCAA Tournament.
You’re damn right we’re about to go there…
WVU is 15-10 overall and 7-5 in the Big 12. That’s seven wins in the RPI’s top-ranked conference with six regular season games remaining. Three are at home, which is suddenly advantageous, and four are against teams the Mountaineers have already beaten. That’s a good lie.
I don’t believe much in absolute results — must win this one, can’t lose that one — because the game and the standings are so volatile. WVU was No. 91 in the RPI after losing to Oklahoma State. It’s 25 spots higher now.
Still, I believe this to be true about WVU. It has one absolute result game remaining. The Mountaineers can’t lose to TCU. There isn’t any more room in the BAD LOSSES: space on the resume.
(Obvious retort: “A 5-1 finish with a loss to TCU is bulletproof!” Well, sure, but you’re telling me then that a team that can beat those other five teams can’t beat TCU? That’s illogical and thus not part of my rationale.)
I also believe this: If WVU wins four more regular season games, it’s in the NCAA Tournament, so long as TCU, which is 0-10 in the Big 12, by the way, is one of the remaining wins. (A win in the conference tournament helps, but I think there’s a certain point where it might not matter. I also don’t want to get too far down this road and detour down that road.)
It doesn’t look like the Bubble isn’t going to be wildly crowded this season. I mean, crowded with strong candidates. There isn’t a wealth of great mid-major programs from the leagues that usually populate the Bubble.
I suppose that’s counterintuitive because a soft Bubble will make room for teams that might not be worthy in other years, but I have to think with the major conferences having solid seasons, those teams will get the nod.
So let’s say WVU finishes 19-12/11-7. You’re looking at a top +/- 52 RPI, a schedule ranked +/- 34 and a top four/five spot in the standings. The Mountaineers would also be 8-3 in their final 11 (I refuse to get on either side of what was Last 10 and is now Last 12).
The only other game I might invest a lot of meaning in happens to be the next one. For starters, WVU is on the radar now and is Bubbly enough that people will look close and stack pros and cons and probably move toward a conclusion after a road game against Texas.
But beyond that, I think WVU can help itself immensely if it isn’t swept by the Longhorns. It was very big to avoid the sweep against Kansas State, especially after Monday’s results, and of the remaining opponents, only Texas and Kansas can sweep WVU.
Kansas is going to sweep some teams and people will forgive that. The first Texas game is a blight WVU would like to correct, and a win Saturday goes a long, long way to proving WVU is indeed a much better team at the end of the season, and thus worthy of serious NCAA Tournament consideration.