MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia received a No. 5 seed for the NCAA tournament and will face No. 12 Murray State in an opening-round game Friday in San Diego.
The game is slated for 3:45 p.m. Eastern on TNT from Viejas Arena.
After reaching the championship game the Big 12 tournament, the Mountaineers (24-10) didn’t quite meet the 4-seed projects from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm. Yet that seeding aligned with West Virginia’s RPI ranking (27).
“I’m fine with it,” coach Bob Huggins said after the bracket unveiling. “Whatever the seeding is, you’ve still got to go play. We’ll be regrouped and ready to go.”
Speculation over a West Virginia-Marshall pairing could still come to fruition in the second round. The 13th-seeded Herd (24-10) also were slotted to play in San Diego and will face No. 4 seed Wichita State in Friday’s first game that tips off at 10:30 a.m. Pacific.
WVU and Marshall met every season from 1978 to 2016 until the Mountaineers declined to renew the series last year.
The Herd ended their 31-year NCAA tournament drought by upsetting Western Kentucky 67-66 to earn Conference USA’s automatic bid Saturday night.
“Wichita State’s good, so that’ll be a hard game,” Huggins said. “But if Marshall can get them spread, they’ve got a chance.”
The Mountaineers opened as 9-point favorites against Murray State (26-5), champions of the Ohio Valley Conference. Marshall is a 12-point underdog to Wichita State (25-7).
Big 12 near-misses
The Big 12 had hoped to land nine NCAA bids but settled for seven.
A loss to WVU in the Big 12 quarterfinals proved to be a tipping point for Baylor (17-14), which was among the first teams out of the field.
Oklahoma State (19-14), with an RPI of 90, also failed to earn an at-large bid despite two wins each over Kansas and Oklahoma, and road victories at West Virginia and Florida State.
“It all comes down to numbers,” said Huggins, who lobbied on behalf of the Bears and Cowboys. “And it’s up to the committee how they use the numbers.”
ESPN’s Dick Vitale, who annually ramps up the melodrama for some snubbed team, chided the committee for omitting the Cowboys.
“How in the world can Oklahoma State be sitting home today and Oklahoma be in the tournament? I see no logic,” Vitale said. “I think it’s a disgrace. I think it’s an embarrassment, and it’s a humiliation to what this tournament is about. To tell you the truth, it frustrates the hell lout of me.”
The math that Vitale didn’t mention: Oklahoma State’s RPI was more than 20 spots worse than any team to ever receive an at-large bid.