Mountaineers still impressive
If I had told you, say about 18 months ago, that John Beilein's West Virginia University Mountaineer Basketball Team would beat UCLA in successive seasons, would you have thought me crazy?
Well, if someone had told me that 18 months ago, I would have likely thought them to be on happy juice. But that is just what has happened. Following a lackluster effort at home against Pitt last Wednesday that resulted in a 60-47 loss to the Panthers, WVU rallied to beat the second ranked Bruins 70-65 in front of an appreciating home crowd last Saturday.
Last year's veteran Mountaineer team was able to go to Los Angeles and beat UCLA in storied Pauley Pavilion. Folks, back to back wins over UCLA is pretty good stuff for any basketball program, that it is our own Mountaineers just makes it that much sweeter.
WVU did get a break when Bruin starting point guard Darren Collison could not play. West Virginia got another boost when pivot man Lorenzo Mata came up lame and was able to play just 11 minutes. That did not diminish the enthusiasm of Mountaineer fans who stormed the court after watching the Mountaineers build a 19 point lead early in the second half, only to see that lead cut to four in a matter of minutes.
As nice as that win was, the Mountaineers' ticket to their third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament has yet to be punched. Conventional thinking says if the Mountaineers win their remaining two home games against Seton Hall and Cincinnati they will be 21-8 at worst and that will get them in. That seems risky.
When it is time for the selection committee to sit down and evaluate teams WVU could have two glaring points that will not enhance their position. One is that the Mountaineers do not have a road win over a quality opponent and the other is that one of their wins was against NCAA Division II Slippery Rock.
This column is being composed prior to Monday's game at Georgetown, and WVU is a 10 point dog. WVU will be the underdog in their other two road games at Providence and Pitt. WVU might be able to get into the Big Dance without another road win, but to be safe, the Mountaineers would want to be 22-7 with a quality road win. With the Hoyas, Providence and Pitt left on the road, WVU will have ample opportunity to post a quality road win.