MORGANTOWN - West Virginia's chances of returning to the NCAA tournament now seem bleak after losing seven of nine games and given that the Mountaineers won't finish with a winning record in Big East play or 20 wins overall.
Still, WVU's chances of rallying over the final two games of the regular season, and then putting together a run in the league tournament sufficient enough to impress the selection committee, seem greater than its chances of doing something else:
Finishing in the top half of the Big East standings and earning a first-round bye in the league tournament.
That's pretty much gone, if not mathematically then at least realistically. In fact, the Mountaineers seem destined to finish probably in the No. 10 spot and open tournament play in the Tuesday session, March 6, at Madison Square Garden.
Still, to listen to at least some of West Virginia's players, they won't stop fighting, even with their goals slipping away.
"I know one thing. We're going to fight to the end until there's no more fight,'' said senior guard Truck Bryant. "We've got two more games left and that's the only thing we can look at. We threw a game away [against Marquette Friday night] and we can't go back. So we have to get ready for these next two games.''
That begins Tuesday night in the final regular-season home game for seniors Bryant and Kevin Jones, a 7 p.m. contest against the Big East's last-place team, DePaul. The Blue Demons (11-17, 2-14 Big East) fell into sole possession of the cellar Saturday when they lost 73-71 at home to Providence.
After that is Saturday's finale against South Florida in Tampa, Fla. The Bulls (18-11, 11-5) are 14-1 at home this season, including Sunday's 46-45 win over Cincinnati.
The Tuesday game with DePaul, of course, may not be the final home game of the season. Unless WVU (17-12, 7-9) makes a significant run, it is likely to be playing in the NIT and at home.