Teams are going to lose over the final week and a half of the season. It would be a bit of a shock if any of the 16 league teams did not lose another game. Really. I mean, who wins out? There are teams that look like they have much easier closing schedules than others (Georgetown, Marquette, St. John's perhaps), but there are potential roadblocks even there.
"I think it's crazy to try and predict what's going to happen,'' said West Virginia senior Cam Thoroughman, who actually studies this stuff more than most players. "There are just too many teams and too many things that can happen.''
That said, in order for the Mountaineers to feel pretty safe about at least finishing in the top eight and avoiding a Tuesday tournament game, a 3-1 record might be necessary against Pitt, Rutgers, Connecticut and Louisville. That would leave WVU at 11-7, and even in the above scenario they would have a 1-0 mark against Georgetown, Notre Dame, Cincinnati and perhaps UConn, as well as a 1-1 mark against either Pitt or Louisville.
At 2-2, the Mountaineers would be at 10-8 and that could very well not be good enough to assure a spot in the top half of the league. West Virginia would also be on the short end of head-to-head tiebreakers against a few teams that could be down there, too (Marquette, perhaps UConn), but the Mountaineers do have an edge of sorts (at least right now) in one of the eventual multiple-team tiebreakers. That's the one that (after mini-conference records and such) checks the tied teams' records against the teams at the top of the standings. WVU owns wins over Notre Dame and Georgetown, which going into Wednesday's games were ranked 2-3 in the league.
As for a 1-3 finish, well, good luck. At best a 9-9 mark might tie for eighth place, but save for a win over Cincinnati and perhaps UConn, the tiebreakers would not seem favorable.
A 1-3 record over the last four games would not only leave the Mountaineers at 9-9 in the Big East, but 18-12 overall. Even with an exceptional strength of schedule rating (No. 4, along with a No. 21 overall ranking in the RPI as of Wednesday), an NCAA tournament berth might come down to performance at Madison Square Garden.
For the record, West Virginia is 4-4 against teams currently in the Top 25 in the RPI (wins over No. 22 Vanderbilt, No. 5 Georgetown, No. 7 Purdue and No. 10 Notre Dame; losses to No. 13 St. John's, No. 23 Louisville, No. 9 Pitt and No. 18 Syracuse) and has three games remaining against such teams (Pitt, Louisville and No. 15 UConn). The Mountaineers are 6-6 against Top 50 teams and 9-9 against teams in the Top 100.
Not sure what any of that will mean to the selection committee (save for the fact that any game WVU plays against a quality opponent is pretty much a coin flip), but with 18 of its 26 games against Top 100 teams (and 21 of 26 against the Top 150; there are now 345 Division I teams), is it any wonder that strength of schedule rating is so high?
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.