MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It's a taxing time for many college basketball teams trying to make the NCAA tournament.
On Saturday, West Virginia University's team might have been H&R Blocked from the event.
In a crucial Big 12 game at the Coliseum, Baylor defeated the Mountaineers 88-75 before a very nice crowd of 11,843. Two statistics stood out. First, there was Royce O'Neale's perfect day. The Bear forward was 8 of 8 shooting, 4 of 4 from beyond the 3-point arc and 2 of 2 from the free-throw stripe.
Then there was the other stat that glowed like Baylor's uniforms. BU's Isaiah Austin didn't have a blocked shot or two. He didn't have two or three.
The man had seven.
And Baylor didn't finish with seven blocked shots. The team had 10 - and probably more. (At the outset of the second half, the Bears had three or four, but were only credited with two.)
WVU entered the game on the NCAA chopping block. Baylor threw a block party.
"Ten blocked shots," Baylor coach Scott Drew said while scanning the stat sheet. "That allowed us to stay attached to their shooters on the perimeter."
It probably allowed Baylor, now 18-9, to stay attached to the NCAA tournament. WVU, meanwhile, entered the game rated No. 66 to 68 in the various Rating Percentage Indexes. Now, at 15-12, the team is probably looking at a possible NIT berth.
Note the word "possible." WVU finishes its regular season with games at Iowa State on Wednesday, home against TCU on Saturday, at Oklahoma on March 5 and home against Kansas on March 8. The Mountaineers will surely be underdogs in all but the TCU game, despite the Mountaineers' home rout of Iowa State on Feb. 10. In the Big 12 tournament there are victories to be had - as well as defeats.
Again, West Virginia is 15-12. Do the math.
After Saturday's game, Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins was as distraught as he's been all season. Over and over he spoke of commitment - and the team's lack thereof.
I asked if he'd discussed the NCAA situation with his team prior to Saturday's game.
"I didn't mention it," he said. "We had a week between games. I talked to them about our commitment to excellence. I said this last week - and I don't want people to take it the wrong way - but we're never going to have the five most talented players in the country here. Most places will never have that.
"But that doesn't mean we can't have the five guys that play the best. That takes commitment."