MORGANTOWN - West Virginia has played bigger and more meaningful games over the course of the past few seasons than the ones coming up this week at home against Connecticut and Louisville.
Let's face it, this is a program that in the past six years has played in four Sweet 16s, two Elite Eights and a Final Four, made it to two Big East championship games and has won 16 of 21 NCAA and NIT games and nine of 13 Big East tournament games over that span.
In other words, the Mountaineers have played big games and been pretty clutch in the postseason.
What makes these next two regular-season games a bit different, though, is that seldom during that recent stretch has West Virginia been in a position where so much of its positioning for the postseason depended on the outcome of the last two regular-season games.
Any realistic chance the Mountaineers have of making postseason runs this year might very well depend on how they position themselves this week.
"These are the games that probably have the biggest ability to change the outcome of our season,'' said West Virginia senior Cam Thoroughman, who has been involved at least peripherally in each of the last four postseasons. "If we win and they put us here or we lose and they put us there, that's what these games mean. It all comes down to this.''
True, the same could be said in other years. Last season West Virginia was playing right to the end for NCAA tournament seeding, as is almost always the case. In 2007, John Beilein's last season, WVU was playing down the stretch just for an NCAA berth and didn't get one when they finished 1-2 in the last three games of the season and then 1-1 in the Big East tournament.
This year, though, so much seems at stake as far as positioning is concerned because of the way the Big East is shaking out.
It seems unfathomable that West Virginia would not make the NCAA tournament no matter what happens from here on out, not with an RPI of 20 and a schedule strength of No. 4 (projected to be No. 2 by season's end). Still, just to be safe it would behoove the Mountaineers to win another game or two.
Perhaps more significant, though, is simple positioning for the postseason. Think about it. Lose two games - or perhaps even one - and this is suddenly a team that is going to be playing in the opening round of the Big East tournament a week from today. And making a run in that tournament facing five games in five days is just ridiculous to comprehend.
Throw in what an 18-12 record (and the aforementioned uphill climb in the Big East tournament) might do to WVU's NCAA tournament seed - assuming they make the field at all - and it seems that losing out could be an awful blow.
On the flip side, though, think what two wins, a 20-12 record and a first-round Big East tournament bye could accomplish as far as positioning.