Joe Sadlek/All-Pro Photography

Gary Browne and walk-on Tyrone Hughes celebrated West Virginia’s stunningly easy 102-77 win over No. 11 Iowa State on Monday night.

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Welcome to the bubble, West Virginia.

Or maybe the bubble atop the bubble.

Though the exact proximity remains difficult to gauge, suffice to say the Mountaineers—with regard to their once farfetched NCAA tournament hopes—have at least played themselves into position to get into position.

If that sounds confusing, well, it should—because this team shapes up to be an intriguing test case for the selection committee. What matters more? The fact West Virginia accomplished virtually nothing in the nonconference schedule, or that it could finish with a winning record in America’s toughest conference?

After a 102-77 demolition of No. 11 Iowa State on Monday night, West Virginia’s RPI climbed six spots to No. 66, putting in on the peripheral of bubble.

MORE: What Jerry Palm thinks of West Virginia’s at-large chances.

Coach Bob Huggins pondered whether WVU’s resurgence in the Big 12 should override the nonleague losses to Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Missouri, Purdue (yuck) and Virginia Tech (double-yuck).

“I bet we could take a poll here and most people would say we wouldn’t lose those now,” Huggins said.

While there are no do-overs for the first-semester foibles, Huggins’ squad is quantifiably better now than it was then. Better to the point that it has beaten three teams who as of Tuesday sported RPIs of 27 (Kansas State), 21 (Oklahoma) and 13 (Iowa State). Better to the point that by splitting its final six Big 12 games, West Virginia would wind up 10-8, and likely in the upper half, of the nation’s top-RPI conference.

Of course three more regular-season wins are anything but a cinch, considering the closing stretch that faces the Mountaineers (15-10, 7-5):

Feb. 15:    at Texas (18-5, 9-2)          RPI: 26
Feb. 22:    vs. Baylor (14-9, 2-8)        RPI: 55
Feb. 26:    at Iowa State (18-5, 6-5)   RPI: 13
March 1:   vs. TCU (9-13, 0-10)         RPI: 196
March 5:   at Oklahoma (18-6, 7-4)    RPI: 21
March 8:   vs. Kansas (18-6, 9-2)       RPI: 1

And even though three wins would guarantee West Virginia a winning league record, that might not be tantamount to an NCAA invite. Each season brings its own benchmark for at-large selections.

In contrast to coaches who are reluctant to publicly focus on the RPI, Huggins has encouraged his players plot a mathematical road map to the tourney.

“I don’t lie to them,” he said. “There are people who say, ‘Well, aren’t you putting pressure on them?’ But if I was them, I’d want to know what you’ve got to do, what our RPI is, what the RPI of the people we’re playing is.

“I’d want to know what we need to do to get our RPI in a range where we’re talked about as an NCAA team.”

According to bracketology numbers cruncher Jerry Palm, the lowest-RPI teams to receive an at-large bid were No. 67 USC and No. 64 Marquette in 2011, No. 63 Stanford in 2007 and No. 63 N.C. State in 2005.

What’s the magic RPI number for West Virginia?

“Anything lower than 60 and I think we can get in,” guessed guard Eron Harris.

“We have to be below 50 or maybe 50ish,” surmised Gary Browne.

Which goes to show that life on the bubble is slippery and debatable, and the Mountaineers—based on where they stood a month ago—are mighty thankful just to be privy to the conversation.

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Erron Harris and West Virginia are trying to make up ground from nonconference losses—none more damaging than the Nov. 2 collapse at Virginia Tech.
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Comments

  • WVcoal

    If this team starts looking ahead at this point in the season, they are doomed. They are getting better each time out, but they are far from great as a team. Everything clicked against Iowa State, they shouldn't and can't count on that type of shooting performance everytime out. Teams are going to clamp down and defend the 3-pt shot better in the future. I know this is a cliche, but this team really needs to take them one game at a time.

    • mad hatter

      that;s exactly what huggs wants them to do, then we go inside, with no help of their def.

      • Capt. Obvious

        who are you going inside to?

        • mad hatter

          i'd like it to be katy perry, but then again,,maybe shakira

        • mad hatter

          second though,,,,michelle obama

  • TruthTeller

    I really don't like tournament talk until it is actually right around the corner. There are still lots of games to be played and it is too early to talk NCAA tournament. WVU just has to keep winning and hope that will be enough. If not, no big deal.Next year will really be an interesting season for the football and basketball season for sure.

    • Aaron

      Coach Huggins talks it every day with his team. It is the reason he plays Purdue, Gonzaga and enters the tournaments. His primary goal is to make the NCAA tournament, thus the focus is on RPI. Of course, as Coach Huggins says, it does no good if you don't win the games.

  • Jake

    Any news on the Texas game regarding a broadcast? Last I heard, the game is on the Longhorn Network and not airing in WV.

    • Aaron

      It is being advertised on the Longhorn Network exclusively.

  • jay zoom

    forgot------I still think the bubble will bust

    • GoEers

      sure you do...you are a marshall fan...you hope wvu loses every game...you haven't seen marshall win an NCAA tournament game because they never have!! they also haven't played in the ncaa tourney in over 25 years..so of course you hope wvu's bubble bursts..either way as a wvu fan i thank you for watching every game...high tv ratings was one of the deciding factors for the big 12 to invite wvu to join their conference!!

  • jay zoom

    after last nights game between Texas and Oklahoma State WVU will have to show up to play basketball not marbles. play a full 40 minutes not 30 and the outcome will be valuable to the program. dibo has to shine once again. heard the game was not going to be televised. THANKS OLLIE 10 TO 1 says if WV radio corporation had the contract it would of been. Ollie and IMG probably only offered $20.00 for the rights to bring the game to WV.

    • WrongWayCorgan

      This is terrible news, I know that our guys had their marbles all shined up. I am not going to tell them, you better break the news to them.

    • Ole Sasquatch

      Let's here it for IMG. Commercialized to the hilt.
      Lack of channels. I will take the Mountaineer Spirit of WV Metro any day to this Spirit dragger.
      Oliver Luck do you want money or do you want Spirit?

      • Country Roads

        The game is on the Longhorn network, also ESPN3 .

        • Charleston

          Just checked. They are not on ESPN3.

      • Aaron

        I'm confused but didn't IMG offer every previous affiliate the right to continue carrying WVU events?

        Saying that, as the game is at Texas, why would WVU have any say in who televises the event were MSN still the holder of WVU's third tier broadcast rights?

        • GoEers

          They did. WV Radio turned the offer down after sending a letter after the first round of bidding stating that they look forward to working with IMG. That letter is public information and can't be disputed.

      • mad hatter

        let's here it??? what's that suppose to mean?

        • squad

          remember this is WV, hatter...

          you should see our misuse of the possessives....

        • Ole Sasquatch

          Well, Mr Hater that would mean dead silence in the case of IMG - commercialized to the hilt broadcasting network.

          • mad hatter

            well said, sir,,,,

      • GoEers

        The game is on the Texas owned Longhorn Network. They broadcast 2-3 games a year. Comcast, Dish, and Directv don't pay for that channel.

        There is nothing that Oliver or IMG can do about this.

        • scott

          yeah but these clowns love to bash oliver...who i think has probably been involved in a few more deals than mr big time Littlefoot and Jay ziehm or zoom or whatever hes calling himself this week.

          sure wish we were in the ameri..the nort...ahh whatever that other conference is. Its obviously better than the little ole Big 12 huh?

          Oh and I forgot....fire Huggs!!!!!

      • WrongWayCorgan

        What does The Long Horn Network's control over the game have anything to do with Luck? He does not control that media entity.

    • Concerned

      It's called the long horn network. Not the Oliver luck sticking it to wvu fan network. Man, get over it already.

    • GoEers

      Hye jay soom or jay ziehm or whichever name you are using these days, if you are not able to watch the WVU game then just go ahead and watch Marshall play since that is your favorite team anyway.

      All your posts in the past were about how bad WVU's basketball program is. Now that they are winning, you act like you know how the team plays or how hard they compete. No one really cares about your whining and constant complaining.

    • heaven lee

      @jay zoom: I'll take $100 of your odds. Img or those idiots at WVa radio corporation would have to pay big bucks to the Texas television network to just pick up this one game and our state can't afford it based on the listener base. Don't have enough money after buying all the meth, coke, and weed needed by our welfare population. Go to Mississippi, they are more affluent than last place inbred hillbillies in our used to be great state. Don't like it, call your wonderful representatives in Charleston, they are the ones who have screwed up our state for decades. No industry, no jobs, no payroll, no future. Thanks legislature! Make sure to feather your nest while you destroy what used to be a great state. You have done it for decades. Look at us now.

  • Herder

    Huggins finally started back coaching after taking last season and half of this one off. He seems to have finally stopped yelling and putting on stupid temper tantrums displays like a kid in the cereal aisle and doing what he is paid to do. Thanks because we are seeing some good basketball!

    • DWM

      Herder, a man whose opinion of a Hall of Fame basketball coach means nothing. He nearly killed himself coaching those dogs last year and has taken a bunch of sophomores and freshman this year and created a dynamo in a half season.

      Huggins is a State Treasure and you better start enjoying this now because he isn't going to coach for ever.

    • Aaron

      I'm not sure what you're watching. When Adrian fouled out, he lit into him and that was with WV up 30. That is how the man coaches. It's won him 710 games and I don't think he's going to stop.

      I had the privilege of being at the Fifth Third Arena on Huggins returned to Cincinnati. Everyone I spoke to would have sold everything they had to get him back.

      He is truly one of the great coaches of all time.

      • mad hatter

        yes mrs. huggins.

        • scott

          figured you would say something about the way he was dressed...thats always been very important to you....

    • Former UC Fan

      Yup, I would give anything to still have him coaching the Bearcats. I just love what WVU is doing now. Monday was the most fun I've had watching a game in a long long time.

  • Country Roads

    If I could say something to the team. It would go something like this, guys stay focused forget about the name on the other teams jersey, don't pay any attention to the crowd, concentrate on each play, just play as hard as you can and don't worry about a miss shot or a made shot play hard and you'll see the difference... Main thing stay focused on both ends of the floor. As one old coach would say (PLAY to win the game)....... ( hope we get a fair shake from the officials)

    • mad hatter

      they aren't sixth graders

      • scott

        yeah..the really good networks dont run commercials...they dont make any money either.

        bet you didnt make the sixth grade either...did you "here" that?

  • Dr. Sarcasm

    Rifle team #1!

  • tw eagle

    keep it simple , win &in . . . got some good officiating for the ISU game . . . if game called like those away , WVU would have had all their big men fouled out in the first half . . .thank you . . .

    play with effort , play together as a team , and hope the clowns deciding the 'beauty contest' for at-large berths likes the Mounties . . . through the years , the criteria has varied to fit the 'beauties' that the clowns like . . .

    bottom LINE . . . finish with a winning record & hit the nit . . . ring up 18 wins & the clowns will have to be singing out of both sides of their mouths to justify passing on the Mounties . . .

    Let's Gooo Mountaineeerrrsss ! ! !

  • Billy

    After last years long football season and last years basketball and this years football it sure feels good to finally have some well deserved excitement and well founded hope for this team. Sure hope they keep improving. Their attitude is much tougher.

  • Aaron

    As I stated on another article a couple of hours ago, if the split their remaining games and wind up 18-13 overall, 10-8 in the league, I believe they need to win at least two games in the Big 12 tournament to get in the NCAA's. With the number of losses they will have, 20 wins is the magic number and gets them a 7 to 10 seed.

    • mad hatter

      who really cares what you believe

      • WVAtty

        LOL

        That's the best you can muster Hatter?

        Like a spoiled brat sitting in the corner.

        So funny.

        • GoEeers

          Mad Hatter is considered the little brother marshall troll on these boards

      • Mark

        It's your opinion no one cares about.

      • True Fan

        No one ever cares what you think. dunce hat

    • Aaron

      It seems that most procrastinators agree with my analysis. It seems I'm in the wrong business.

  • Low Rider

    I think we need 20 wins to get a tourney invite. 3 regular season and 2 in the Big 12 tourney. If we go to the NIT and make a deep run there, that will be as good as an early exit from the NCAA.

  • Justin Taylor

    Just Win Baby WiN!

  • John

    Three more conference wins and WVU is in the tournament. Quality of conference and strength of schedule still matters to the committee.

    • in da stickes

      And coach Huggins reputation doesn't hurt.

      • mad hatter

        pass me another beer

        • Mark

          We all just wish you would pass out and shut up!

  • Leroy j gibbs

    Texas is dismantling Oklahoma state as I type. Would be a quality win on Saturday