LUBBOCK, Texas - If West Virginia still has any chance of making something out of this torturous-to-date basketball season - and Bob Huggins firmly insists that it does - the Mountaineers have to start now.
Time isn't running out, it's already gone. With two thirds of the regular season in the books and the team sitting two games under .500, there's virtually no margin for error remaining.
So what's the best recipe for success? Well, playing four of the next five games against teams joined with WVU at the bottom of the Big 12 standings is a great place to start. But not only do the Mountaineers actually have to go out and put a streak together - something they've not done yet - but they have to keep it going.
A short burst of success at this point isn't enough.
"We're in a position where we have to win more than just those,'' Huggins said of the games the next few weeks against similarly positioned teams. "That would be a great start, but we have to win those and then a lot more.''
It starts today when West Virginia (9-11 overall, 2-5 Big 12) faces Texas Tech (9-9, 2-5) at United Spirit Arena here. The 1:30 p.m. game will be televised by the Big 12 Network (locally on WQCW).
After that, the Mountaineers face Texas, TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech in order. Of those, only Baylor is not struggling around .500 overall and none have more than two Big 12 wins.
What happens over that stretch will determine just what this team has to play for after that, when the teams from the top of the league reappear on the schedule. Does West Virginia have any right to be talking about the postseason or are the Mountaineers simply what their record says they are 20 games into the season - a team that belongs among the basement dwellers?
Huggins insists it is the former. In fact, he optimistically proclaims that not only is this team capable of getting into the postseason conversation (NIT?), but into NCAA tournament discussions.
Really, he does.
"We can still make a run,'' Huggins said Friday, just before practicing and then heading for Texas. "We could conceivably get ourselves on the bubble or better.''
Well, yes, the Mountaineers could. They've done nothing this season that speaks to an NCAA tournament resume, but the end of the schedule is loaded with opportunities. There's the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, too.
Then again, little they have done this season suggests that they will. Any encouraging performance or spell to date generally has been followed by an almost mind-numbing lack of focus or execution, thus instances like last week's at Oklahoma State, where in a matter of less than 20 game minutes West Virginia went from leading by 13 points to trailing by 19 and losing badly.
There is, though, reason for hope right now. In WVU's most recent game, Monday at home against No 2 Kansas, the Mountaineers did a lot of things right, trailed by just two deep into the second half and lost by just five points to a team that hasn't lost since November.