Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Can point guard Juwan Staten carry West Virginia for three straight days at the Big 12 tournament? That’s what it will take to send the Mountaineers dancing.

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Inside an empty Sprint Center, Scott Drew divided his team at opposite ends of the court for an end-of-practice free-throw contest. With the losers facing pushups and scorching shame, each team whoofed heartily at the other, mostly with shooters in mid-stroke.

This is what suffices for postseason pressure at Baylor.

From 2-8 and sinking in the Big 12 to safe and sound on the good side of the bubble. Drew’s comfortable nature has been noticeable since he pronounced Baylor an NCAA tournament lock … seven days ago.

Joe Lunardi concurs, projecting Baylor as a No. 9 seed in the Dance, which isn’t bad for a team seeded No. 7 in its own conference. That speaks to the bounty of quality teams in the Big 12, the nation’s top-rated RPI league and one that figures to advance at least seven teams to the NCAAs.

WVU isn’t considered an at-large possibility, but with regular-season champion Kansas trying to plug a 7-foot hole in its middle, the Big 12 tournament could proceed in countless directions.

“Normally going in there’s two or three teams everybody thinks are the favorites, but this year it’s truly wide-open,” Drew said Tuesday.

In this instance, wide-open encompasses every team except TCU and Texas Tech. Even sixth-seeded West Virginia is among the legitimate hopefuls, and here are a few reasons why such an event could transpire:

In the relatively brief 17-year history of the Big 12 tournament, no school has pulled off the four-wins-in-four-days superfecta. So let’s eliminate all four teams tasked with playing in the Wednesday night prelims. There, we just elevated West Virginia’s odds from 10-1 to 6-1.

But how does WVU survive the quarterfinals against Texas—the mother-of-all matchup mismatches? That’s simple: Texas won’t play as well as did during the first two meetings.

Despite what WVU witnessed in Morgantown and Austin, the Longhorns are not a superior offensive team. They finished eighth in the league in shooting (42 percent), 10th in 3-point accuracy (30 percent), seventh in scoring (71.8 per game) and eighth in points per possession. So those two-game averages of 84 points and 55 percent shooting against the Mountaineers, they were mirages. This team is coming back to its statistical norm.

Plus, Texas has lost five consecutive games away from home, including a 59-53 stinker in Lubbock last Saturday. Hail, WV! On to the semifinals!

On Friday night, the bracket projects WVU will face … Drew and his Baylor bunch. (We figure Baylor to be a might ticked over losing twice to second-seeded Oklahoma during the regular season.)

If you’re searching for the most heinous 20 minutes of basketball West Virginia played in the Big 12, my frontrunner would be the second half from Baylor’s Feb. 22 game in Morgantown, when the Mountaineers were outscored 52-33 in what became an 88-75 loss. Royce O’Neal was 8-for-8 in that game—eight for freaking EIGHT!—and that’s not happening again. Plus Baylor will be a step slow from playing its third game in 52 hours. WVU thanks its lucky stars for the bye and marches into the final against …

Iowa State?

Yup. Fred Hoiberg’s band of 3-point bombers will knock off top-seeded and Embiid-less Kansas in the other semifinal, which signals the Rock Chalk Nation to leave town a day early. (Look at all this parking!)

West Virginia, having womped the Cyclones by 25 in February, is emboldened, feeling it still must win the tourney to fetch an NCAA bid. (C’mon, you don’t think a 19-15 team with a mid-70s RPI is getting in, do you?). The Cyclones get a much better game from Melvin Ejim than he delivered against WVU previously, but Juwan Staten’s soul burns with the white-hot scorn of a player bypassed for league MVP honors. He finishes two steals shy of a quadruple double and WVU cuts down the nets at the Sprint Center.

That would make Selection Sunday significantly more interesting in the Mountain State.

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Comments

  • rekterx

    1) The whole "blind optimist" thing sailed over a lot of heads.

    2) If Devin Williams has any semblance of effectiveness under the hoop we can give UT a run for their money if not beat them.

    You heard it here.

  • J the C

    On the TV question, the conference site says "Big XII Network". In the upper ohio valley, that means channel 9.2 (Comcast 208 - MeTV). Don't know about the rest.

  • Big Hooptie

    Does anyone remember the emergence of Frank Young in the 2005 Big East Tournament? He came out of nowhere, shooting lights out.

    We must have bench scoring in KC. That has plagued this team all season. We can't hope for 30 from Eron Harris. At least not 3 consecutive nights - and with the uncertainty of Henderson's health.

    Someone has to step up and help carry this team up the mountain.

  • ole sasquatch

    Texas will be the hardest to beat. Our bigs can not be intimidated by Texas in order to win.
    Is this game gone to be on TV?

  • Cam

    I guess no one read the title...
    The blind optimist’s guide to a WVU championship in Kansas City
    Surely no one thinks this will actually happen the way he describes - literally everything has to go our way for this to happen.
    There is a chance we win it all, and if our guys play like they want it like we saw in the Iowa State blowout, then yeah, we could win the whole thing.
    In reality though, every single game is going to be a grind - especially now that Kansas looks beatable. Everyone else is going to be thinking that this is the year they finally unseat Kansas at the top.

    • Aaron

      Isn't that the beauty of March Madness though? Do we not tune in to local television stations and computer terminals to watch some team we've never heard of in hopes of witnessing the shot that will be televised for decades?

      Seriously, how many fans did Baylor have 2 years ago when they defeated Kansas to advance to the finals?

      While I doubt there is anyone on here who expects what Mr. Taylor laid out to actually take place, with the exception of the guy crying about $20 in the parking lot and the other guy who signs in under 87 monikers to complain Coach Huggins sweat suit and recruiting, there are those of us who not only want to see WV make a run, we know that right, that possibility still exist.

      Yes, to win it all will be a grind, as it is for every team but until the final bell sounds with an opponant victory in hand, the fat hatter has not sang yet, true Mountaineers continue to shout from the highest peaks and lowest valleys...

      Lets Go....

      Mountaineers...

      As always, it's a great day to be a Mountaineer.

      That is all.

      • Cam

        I wasn't trying to disagree with us having a chance to win it all - I think (and really really hope) that we can win the whole thing.
        I was more responding to people saying he was full of it when he clearly illustrated with the title that it's the most optimistic view of what could happen.

        • Mister Man

          I got it.

        • Aaron

          I agree

          • Aaron

            My post was aimed more at the logically challenged who post so often on this site.

      • GoEers

        +1

  • wvutim1994

    Is this game on TV? I can only find it on ESPN3. What gives?

  • squad

    after a few years of trying journalistic neutrality and objectiveness/professionalism to the nth degree, mr t finally dons his blue and gold colored glasses... listen I know what you say could all come unglued in the first 10 minutes Thursday-I hate these late games- but you and everyone else here must admit one thing-----we need this more than any other team participating..don't give me this crap about seeding.. not compared to NEEDING it...and I would expect our guys (based on what great effort we've seen from them) to come out like a pack of hungry dogs this week

  • TruthTeller

    Why come on hear and post nothing but negativity about WVU? If you don't like WVU then keep it to yourself. Nobody cares what you got to say anyway. People who were born and raised here should be behind WVU not against them. There is no other college or university with the success of WVU in this state. They are the pride of WV. Lets stop the hate and learn to appreciate. In God's eyes anger is just as bad as murder. It says so in the Bible. God Bless WVU and good luck Mountaineers!!!

    • TruthTeller

      oops!! Correction..here not hear..

  • DWM

    I like the way you think. It ain't happening, but I like the way you think.

    What could improve our chances significantly is a healthier Terry Henderson. This team was just becoming a tourney team when he got sick and they aren't the same without him.

    If he plays well and with some hop in his step, a deep run is certainly possible.

  • Shawn

    If WVU gets by Texas then I can see them going to the finals. This teams knows they aren't in the tourney unless they win the whole thing. They have nothing to lose and will come out firing on all cylinders.

    I do believe either Tech or TCU will win one of the first round games.

    Either way it should be a good tourney this year.

    Lets Go EERS

  • Baldeagle

    Not sure about Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, but Aerosmith sang "Dream On" on their Pandora's box album.

    Go Mountraineers

  • jay zoom

    the only thing WVU is going to "hail" is a cab back to the motel after Texas mows them down. this will be a one and done club. mainly because the only players showing up to play basketball will be Staten and Harris. from what I can see Mr. Taylor has been drinking to much of the recipe. THANKS OLLIE.

    • J the C

      Wow, man. Pitt can always use another fan. You are henceforth barred from ever posting on this site again. Bye bye!

    • Mister Man

      So, you could not comprehend the title or the point of the article?

  • Hop'sHip

    Well,continue. Take the Mountaineers to the national championship. I'm a believer!

  • rekterx

    Boogie on reggae writer!

  • Muddy Creek 7

    I like the way this guy thinks!