Life in the Big 12 isn’t easy

If you are a fan of West Virginia University basketball, then this past weekend’s results couldn’t have been enjoyable for you to endure.

But, this will be life in the Big 12 until the Mountaineers discover a way to handle the travel, the rowdy crowds that fill the arenas in which they will compete and the officiating.

Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma State proves the latter as six players were disqualified and 56 fouls were whistled – 32 against the old gold and blue, resulting in the loss of Devin Williams, Nathan Adrian, Gary Browne and Eron Harris.

The Cowboys made the most of their opportunities at the charity stripe, knocking down 25 free throws, including six in a row from Phil Forte during the final 40 seconds of the game.

Mike Carey’s women’s team did not face near the dilemma during its contest at Texas, but foul problems faced by standout players Asya Bussie and Christal Caldwell limited their time on the court and allowed the Longhorns to maintain their unbeaten mark at home.

Now, before you start reading a bias against the men and women in the striped shirts in this column, the reality is that it is on the Mountaineer players to adjust their games to the way the whistle is being blown.

Foul problems are just one of a myriad of difficulties facing both men’s head coach Bobby Huggins as well as Carey.

Inconsistent play, bench depth and shooting woes have had more to do with WVU’s setbacks. You can’t shoot under 37 percent from the field in the first half and barely 40 percent for the game – as WVU’s women did in their most recent loss – and beat anybody, especially on their home court.

The men were just as bad at OSU, connecting on only 12-of-28 shots (42.9 percent) in the first half and following that with a miserable 31 percent (9-of-29) effort in the final 20 minutes.

Good news for fans is that Huggins and Carey have proven that they can make the adjustments needed to give the Mountaineers a better chance of success.

Time may be running out, however, especially for the men.

With only 11 games remaining in the regular season beginning with tonight’s showdown at Baylor, West Virginia finds itself in a near must-win scenario every time it takes to the court.

At 11-9 overall and 3-4 in Big 12 play, a 20-win season (normally an automatic ticket to the Big Dance) is out of the question while a berth in the lower half of the conference standings also means that the NCAA’s Selection Committee will spend little time sending an invitation to Morgantown.

The men could improve their chances with a late-season run in the Big 12 tournament, but it is becoming more and more likely that an NIT bid may be the only thing in the Mountaineers’ future, if WVU receives any invite at all.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com