KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Can a team that hasn’t won a single game in three weeks suddenly find the resolve to win four games in 96 hours?
That’s the challenging path West Virginia must navigate to win the Big 12 tournament, which is WVU’s only path into the NCAA tournament. Though the Mountaineers face steep odds of making a perfect run through Kansas City, coach Bob Huggins is touting the possibility by emphasizing his squad’s sporadic stretches of quality play.
“I think we’re capable of playing with just about everybody on a given night, and I still think we can make a run,” Huggins said Monday.
“We’ve played well at times, but we just haven’t been as consistent as we need to be. I think if we can put it together, we’re not that far away from being able to beat some good people.”
The Mountaineers (13-18, 6-12 Big 12), who face Texas Tech on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., find themselves stuck with the eighth seed because of their inability to close out close games against the league’s upper-half teams. There was a five-point home loss to Kansas, a three-pointer to Baylor, a two-point loss at Iowa State and a one-point heartbreaker against K-State.
And as strange as it sounds, last Saturday’s 83-74 home loss to Iowa State on Senior Day proved to Huggins his team has some fight remaining.
“When you get down by 27 and then come back and cut it to four, I think it obviously shows you still think you can win,” he said.
During Monday night’s MetroNews call-in show, Huggins was asked what level of roster turnover to expect during the offseason.
“I don’t know the absolute answer to that because we don’t really discuss those things during the season,” Huggins said. “I haven’t had a sit-down with any of (the players) in terms of what their plans are.
“I think it’s very important that we’re honest with them, which we have been, and that they’re honest with us. We had a situation the last two years where we had a guy who says ‘I’m in, I’m in. I’m coming back,’ and then recruiting ends and he says, ‘Hey, I want to go somewhere else.’ And that’s not the right thing to do.”
Whether it occurs at the coach’s urging, via player opt-out or by way of mutual agreement, the math projects some current underclassmen won’t be returning. WVU has four players signed for next season with only three departing seniors, and Huggins recently said he intends to sign an additional player (or players) during the spring signing period.
Should WVU defeat Texas Tech for a third time this season, the Mountaineers would face Kansas on Thursday at 3 p.m. At that point, KU will be five days removed from an 81-58 shellacking at Baylor in the regular-season finale.
Though the blowout loss cost the Jayhawks a chance to win the league outright, coach Bill Self said it shouldn’t overshadow his team’s body of work this season.
“One game can’t take away from what the guys have accomplished over the course of the conference season,” he said.
“We were fine coming back (from Waco) and we talked about it when we got back. But even though we didn’t play very well and they were terrific. we had it to six with a few minutes to do. They made every play and we didn’t finish very well at all.”