MORGANTOWN - There are, it can be argued, two ways to look at the fight for seeding in this year's Big East tournament.
It doesn't matter at all.
Or it makes every difference in the world.
Believe it or not, both can be legitimately argued.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, of course, is a proponent of the second of those two theories, that seeding means everything. That's why he was thrilled with another Big East win Saturday afternoon, even if it was the 82-71 victory against cellar dweller DePaul.
Forget the Big East tournament for a moment. The primary goal is to make it into the 68-team NCAA tournament field, which Huggins correctly argues is a lock for the Mountaineers provided they take care of business. Every win counts in that regard.
"We've got the fourth-best schedule in the country. We're 18th [actually 17th going into Saturday's games] or something in the RPI,'' Huggins said. "We're fine. We've just got to win some games.''
That whole Big East tournament seeding thing, though, is another matter entirely.
First, let's go with that first theory on how seeding isn't that important this season. The reason? Well, with eight current Top 25 teams comprising half the Big East field, and with five of the remaining eight teams owning at least one and sometimes more wins over those ranked teams, isn't the whole thing just a crapshoot?
If you're in that bottom half of the league, does it really matter if you're drawing Notre Dame or Villanova or Connecticut or Georgetown? What's the difference between that and drawing Syracuse, Louisville or West Virginia? Go ahead and name one team in that group that hasn't proven it can be beaten when few expect it to happen.
(Notice we omitted Pitt from that list. I'm still not convinced the Panthers aren't vulnerable, but to date they have not stumbled badly, so they get a pass here. OK, you don't want to be seeded eighth.)
Conversely, after the bottom eight teams finish with their play-in games on the opening Tuesday in New York, does it really matter who emerges to face the fifth-through-eighth seeds on Wednesday? Chances are good that the lower-seeded team there will have proven at some point during the season that it can play with the best, so is it really an advantage to draw, say, Seton Hall (a 22-point winner at Syracuse) or Rutgers (which just beat Villanova)? And shoot, the way things are going, it is very possible that one of those ninth- through-16th-place teams that play on Tuesday will be ranked.
So from that standpoint, no, seedings don't much matter. Just throw them all in a hat and see what comes out.
But while particular seeding spots don't seem to be terribly important this season, general seeding areas are. While it may not matter much whether a team is ninth or 12th or 16th, it certainly does matter to be in that ninth-through-16th area. In short, you don't want that. Those are the teams that have to play on Tuesday.
By the same token, while there is probably little difference between fifth and eighth place, being fifth through eighth matters because you don't play until Wednesday. And, of course, while first through fourth are interchangeable, just being first through fourth means not playing until Thursday.
"That's why seeding matters,'' Huggins said. "I don't know if there's ever been any league where you had to win five games. It's hard enough to win three.''