"Some of it has to do with me being comfortable on the court,'' Rutledge said. "Those things have always been part of my game, but I just had to learn how to fit it within the offense.''
His performance against Connecticut was an eye-opener. He had a monster dunk, made a few unexpected moves around the basket and even passed the ball, getting a career-high three assists.
But there was at least one key moment in that 71-67 overtime loss that he will kick himself over time and again. With just over a minute to play in regulation and the score tied, Rutledge found himself under the basket with the ball and almost comically wide open. Two defenders were there, but he turned the wrong way and had a clear opening for a dunk or an easy layup that might have won the game (neither team scored after that).
But he didn't take it. Instead, he pivoted once, then twice and by the time he went up, UConn's Alex Oriakhi had recovered and blocked the shot. It was almost as if he couldn't believe that after a season of obscurity and insignificance, he was in the position he was in, with the ball.
Rutledge, though, said it wasn't that he doubted himself or his place at that moment, though.
"I didn't doubt myself,'' Rutledge said. "When I did the reverse pivot, I thought I saw Truck [Bryant] open. But by the time I was going to kick it out to him the defender had kind of rotated in his way. So then I had no other option but to go up, but by then I'd drawn the defense into me.''
Expect, though, to see Rutledge in more crucial situations as West Virginia heads into the postseason. He has been given the opportunity to play and has begun to take advantage of it. And when he looks around, no longer does he see players and coaches who question whether he can do what he's being asked to do, which makes a big difference.
"The coaches and my teammates I think just have more faith in me and they've been putting the ball in my hands a lot more,'' Rutledge said. "That has a lot to do with it, plus they help me out a lot as far as being confident on the court and letting me play my game.''
BRIEFLY: As of midday Saturday, all of the major so-called bracketologists still had West Virginia in the 68-team NCAA tournament field. ESPN's Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports' Jerry Palm both had the Mountaineers as a No. 10 seed on Friday, although Palm dropped WVU to a No. 11 seed on Saturday.
USA Today's "Bubble Tracker'' had WVU on its bubble watch but still rather solidly in the field, citing more Top 50 wins (five) and a higher strength of schedule rating (No. 15) than virtually all other teams considered to be on the bubble.
The tournament pairings will be announced shortly after 6 p.m. today.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1