WVU still can make big dance

The resume building continues for veteran head coach Bobby Huggins and his West Virginia University basketball team as the Mountaineers enter the final five games of the regular season.

Saturday’s 88-71 loss at No. 19 Texas wasn’t what the doctor ordered, but it doesn’t necessarily spell doom for WVU’s chances of hearing its name called on NCAA Selection Sunday.

Home games against Baylor (Feb. 22) and TCU (March 1) should find the old gold and blue heavy favorites to pick up wins No. 16 and No. 17 while a road game at Iowa State, a team beaten by the Mountaineers by a 102-77 margin, could easily push the team’s win total to 18 with a road game at Oklahoma (March 5) and a regular season finale at the Coliseum against Kansas (March 8).

Four victories in those final five contests would give WVU a 19-12 overall mark, but, more importantly, allow it to finish with an 11-7 record in Big 12 play.

It won’t be easy – nothing is in the Big 12, as Mountaineer fans are finding out – but, it can be done.

If more work needs to be done, however, WVU can accomplish that with a solid run in the Big 12 tournament slated to be played in Kansas City beginning on March 12.

West Virginia possesses the athletes to cause some concern to whoever it faces in tournament play.

Point guard Juwan Staten has shown he can play with the best floor-leaders in the Big 12 while fellow guard Eron Harris can score a ton of points in a very short period of time when he gets ‘in the zone’.

Terry Henderson rounds out the Mountaineers’ trio of play-making guards and can explode at any given moment.

The question for Huggins’ squad surrounds the play of its ‘bigs’

Devin Williams, Nathan Adrian, Remi Dibo, Brandon Watkins and Tyrone Hughes have all had their moments.

Problem is they have only been moments. None has displayed the ability to give West Virginia a solid inside threat for long periods of time.

Without that inside threat, teams have been more willing to extend their defenses to shut down the Mountaineers’ outside shooting – just look at what Texas did in its 17-point win last Saturday.

WVU shot just 31 percent from the field in the first half (30 percent from 3-point range) and only 39.7 percent for the game.

The inside players accounted for just 16 points and 12 of those came on four triples by Adrian.

If those numbers continue over the next five games, not only will the team not have to worry about earning a berth in March Madness, it can forget about finishing above the .500 mark for either the overall or Big 12 seasons.

Then, West Virginia fans will be drawing more comparisons to last year’s team that stayed home for the postseason than the more successful ones that proceeded it.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com