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Tag:West Virginia
Posted on: March 7, 2012 4:12 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 5:23 pm
 

WVU blows lead, is officially out of the Big East

Huggins' team led most of the way, but after Kevin Jones didn't get shots near the end, UConn stole it. (US Presswire)

By Matt Norlander

NEW YORK — West Virginia’s Big East membership ends with a whimper and an ill-attempted fall-away shot by Paul Williamson.

Who?

Exactly.

Meanwhile, UConn Big East tournament storyline gets another injection and dollop of hype thanks to the Mountaineers’ inability to close out a 63-54 lead with 3:40 to go during Wednesday afternoon’s conference quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden. The Mountaineers, a .500 team in the Big East this season that hasn’t beaten a surefire NCAA tournament club since Jan. 21 (Cincinnati), made things more complicated upon their swift exit out of the league.

So, why was Williamson in the game, and why was he even shooting the ball with seconds ticking away in overtime? The rarely used man was inserted after the best beard in college basketball and the man attached to it, Deniz Kilicli, fouled out with 4:20 to go in regulation. Huggins opted to use a few different lineups once Kilicli was unavailable. Trailing 71-67, the entertaining, gruff coach had seen enough of his young team and its unreliable guards give the game away. So up went Williamson’s shot on a play Huggins refrained from expounding upon afterward. The ball met the side of the backboard, and it was in that moment that many inside the Garden looked at each other and asked, “Who is that?”

With the shot failing, it signaled West Virginia’s biggest problem and the only reason that it lost this game. Where was Kevin Jones? He’s the guy Bob Huggins is ticked off about not winning the league’s Player of the Year award (Jones came in second to Marquette’s Jae Crowder). Because Jones was hounded by future NBA lottery pick Andre Drummond — a bright moment for the UConn freshman in a game that saw him miss a field goal as if he was putting from 30 feet out — the young Mountaineers got tunnel vision and backed their way into overtime against No. 9 UConn.

Once in overtime, West Virginia didn’t make a field goal. Oh-for-11. The team couldn’t find Jones and Jones couldn’t get open. He didn’t attempt a shot in the final 7:15 of regulation.

“I feel a little bit of disbelief, disappointment,” Jones said. “We didn’t make the correct decisions at the end. I think it was a little bit that they had Andre Drummond on me. Some of my teammates weren’t able to find me. UConn made the correct plays at the end of the game.”

Was this an emotional ending for Huggins? Uh, no, at least not outwardly. When one reporter addressed him and the players in the postgame press conference, Huggins was either lost in the riveting stat sheet or just flat out ignoring the question. He lifted his head up when the room was silent after the question was completed, as if he’d been called on in class and got caught daydreaming.

Jones answer the question. Eventually, Huggins did talk when another was asked.

“It’s been a good run,” he said of West Virginia’s 17-year stay in the Big East. “We’ve enjoyed it — most of it, anyway. There’s nothing like coming to the Garden to play in the tournament.”

That was all Huggins had to say about it. And as for Williamson’s involvement, I asked him how the play broke down. He responded, “He made a hard shot.”

Made? What? I don’t even know. Maybe he misheard. What's evident now and has been the case for most of this season and the majority of his career: Huggins is ticked. He should be, because this team’s been inconsistent and a frustrating one for him to coach this season. If not for Jones, WVU isn’t even in the NIT.

“He (Jones) was playing with a bunch of freshman that don’t have any idea what the hell they’re doing,” Huggins said. “And they don’t mean to, but to do what this guy’s done … with seven freshmen and a junior college transfer who didn’t play … we couldn’t ask him [and senior Truck Bryant] to do any more. You hope that your freshmen get better and start to understand a little bit better. You can’t give them the ball at the end and knowing full well it’s hard to guard him at the foul line.”

As for the mandatory are-they-in question, I think WVU is headed to the First Four, or just barely dodge it with an 11 seed. They've got enough inventory to clear the 10-or-so teams fighting to squeeze in. Here is Huggins’ defense of WVU's resume:

 “We’ve played more games against top 100 than anybody in the country. We’ve played more games against top 50 teams. We’ve done more things than they’ve asked us to do, except win a couple of games,” Huggins said.

It's that last part that always catches up with teams.

Posted on: March 7, 2012 2:38 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:56 pm
 

Poppin' Bubbles: Focus is on Big East bubblers

South Florida kept itself in the at-large discussion by winning ugly over Villanova. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

The bubble of the Big East has been discussed nonstop for the past several weeks, and the conference takes center stage on Wednesday. All four of the bubble teams are in action, with two of them facing off. Cincinnati is in good shape, especially with the double-bye, so it gets a reprieve until Thursday. It remains to be seen if anyone that loses today can survive on Selection Sunday; teams need to get to the quarterfinals.

Winners

Connecticut: Thank you, Shabazz Napier. The Huskies have essentially locked up a bid, by coming from behind and knocking off West Virginia in overtime. Now we don’t need to really debate whether Connecticut is worthy of an at-large bid. The Huskies are 6-6 against the top-50, with 10 wins against the top 100. They needed to win three in a row at some point down the stretch, and they finally reached that achievement. Connecticut is now 7-8 away from home, so the negatives on the resumes are becoming limited. No matter what happens against Syracuse on Thursday, Connecticut will hear its name on Selection Sunday.

South Florida: It wasn't pretty -- or even remotely attractive -- but the Bulls came out with a win over Villanova in the second round of the Big East tournament. Will that be enough to get an at-large bid? South Florida went 12-6 in conference play, and has a pretty solid computer profile. Avoiding a bad loss to Villanova was important, as it gives them something to separate from Seton Hall and West Virginia. The Bulls are only 1-9 against the top 50, with the lone victory coming at Louisville a week ago. They did go 5-0 against teams 50-100, but there's also three sub-100 losses. In the quarterfinals, South Florida will be pitted against Notre Dame. If the Bulls can knock off the Fighting Irish, there will be no need to sweat on Selection Sunday. A loss there, and the lack of quality wins could catch up to them.   

Losers

West Virginia: Heading into the Connecticut vs. West Virginia matchup, the stakes were pretty clear: the winner is a lock heading into Selection Sunday, and the loser will sweat it out. Well, the Mountaineers blew a late lead and couldn’t execute in overtime en route to a 71-67 defeat. West Virginia moves to 4-8 in its last 12 games, and although that’s not a criterion anymore, it doesn’t bode well. The Mountaineers have a solid computer profile, but they are just 4-8 against the top 50 (and one of those wins, Oral Roberts, is on the cutline). They have nine top-100 wins and are 4-2 on neutral courts. What could help them is the bubble wins; West Virginia has defeated Miami, Cincinnati, South Florida and Oral Roberts. The best wins are Georgetown and Kansas State, but they also have two sub-100 losses. It will be a close call, but we have West Virginia in as of today. 

Seton Hall: The Pirates will have a long next four days to wait until Selection Sunday, after losing to Louisville in the second round of the Big East tournament. Seton Hall now has losses in three of its last four games, and four of its last games. The two games that the Pirates may end up regretting if they get left out could be the season-ending losses to Rutgers and DePaul. Had they won those two, Seton Hall would have been a lock heading into the Big East tournament. Now, the Pirates are in trouble. The computer profile is not very impressive, and the non-conference strength of schedule is fairly high. The Pirates are 4-8 against the top 50, with wins over Georgetown and Connecticut. They have also defeated fellow bubblers West Virginia, Dayton and Saint Joseph's, which could help. The three sub-100 losses and 5-10 record to finish the season could cost them, though. 

Posted on: March 3, 2012 3:04 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 11:02 pm
 

Poppin' Bubbles: Statement time for bubblers

Iowa State answered all remaining questions about its at-large candidacy with a win over Baylor. (AP)

By Jeff Borzello

Saturday is not just for Duke vs. North Carolina and a trio of conference championship games. The final weekend of the regular season has bubble implications galore. There are intriguing bubble battles, chances for bubble teams to get big wins and other spots where bubble teams just simply can’t lose if they want an at-large bid. For some teams, losing might mean their hopes are dashed even before the conference tournament.

Note: This page will be updated throughout the day, with bubble discussion and analysis.

Locking things up

Memphis: The Tigers are all set after clinching the outright Conference-USA regular-season title with a win at Tulsa on Saturday. They finished the conference season with a 13-3 record, have a top-20 RPI and SOS, and own nine top-100 victories. They could wear home jerseys for the first round of the NCAA tournament at this point.

Saint Louis: The Billikens essentially clinched things with their win over Xavier earlier in the week, but avoiding a loss at Duquesne – without head coach Rick Majerus – on Saturday cements things even more. There aren’t any truly marquee wins, but an 8-4 record against the top 100 and a top-30 RPI will get the job done.

Iowa State: If there was any debate about whether the Cyclones would get an at-large bid, it ended on Saturday, when Iowa State knocked off Baylor to clinch the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament. They now have four top-50 wins, including victories over Kansas and a sweep of Kansas State. The soft non-conference schedule was a question mark for a bit, but there's no keeping out Iowa State anymore.

Helped itself

West Virginia picked up a big bubble win by defeating South Florida. (AP)

West Virginia: The Mountaineers had the biggest bubble win in the first few hours of Saturday, going into South Florida and knocking off the Bulls in the final minutes. The win gets West Virginia to .500 in the Big East, and is their fourth top-50 win of the season. The bubble pecking order in the conference is completely up in the air, but two wins in the Big East tournament would likely get a bid for West Virginia.

Connecticut: The Huskies simply couldn’t lose to Pittsburgh on Saturday, unless they had plans to make a run to the Big East title game. It wasn’t pretty, but Connecticut pulled out a win in the final two minutes. 8-10 in the Big East doesn’t look great, but the Huskies have five top-50 wins, including victories over fellow bubblers South Florida, Seton Hall and West Virginia. The No. 2-ranked SOS is also a huge plus. They will need a couple of wins in the Big East tourney as well.

Dayton: Beating George Washington isn’t going to get the Flyers in the dance, but it keeps their hopes alive heading into the conference tournament. They have three top-30 RPI wins over Temple, Alabama and Saint Louis, as well as a win over bubbler Xavier. Nine top-100 wins are more than most bubble teams can say. On the negative side, the computer profile is mediocre and they have three sub-100 losses. They might need a marquee win in the A-10 tournament; could that mean a trip to the title game?

Cincinnati: For the first time in nearly a decade, the Bearcats went into Villanova and came out with a win. They improve to 12-6 in the Big East, including six top-50 wins. The Bearcats should feel pretty comfortable right now, but the three sub-100 losses and the horrendous non-conference SOS still make things shaky. The RPI is slowly getting better, and one win in the Big East tournament could be enough to get the job done for Mick Cronin's crew.

Xavier:
For a while on Saturday, it looked like the Musketeers were ready to see their bubble popped. They were down at home to Charlotte, before going on a huge run in the second half and pulling out the win. Xavier is currently third in the Atlantic-10 standings, which could be helpful for the profile. It looks like they will need a semifinal win to really improve the profile, though. There are good wins over Vanderbilt and Purdue, as well as victories against bubblers Cincinnati, Dayton and Saint Joseph's. They will be an interesting case.

Northwestern:
The Wildcats escaped at Iowa, finishing at 8-10 in the Big Ten. A loss on Saturday would have ended their chances, but now they still have life heading into the Big Ten tournament. They are only 2-10 against the top 50, but suffered zero sub-100 losses and have a top-10 strength of schedule. The win over Michigan State back in January carries some weight, but there's not a ton of heft besides that victory. There is damage to be done in the tourney.

Miami (Fl.):
The Hurricanes were one of the last teams out of the field heading into the weekend, but they stayed alive with a dominant victory over Boston College. With Maryland sneaking into the top 100, Miami has four top-100 wins, including victories against Duke and Florida State. However, the 4-11 record against the top 100 is a huge eye sore and the computer profile isn't overly impressive. They need another big win for the ledger, meaning they have to win a couple games in the ACC tourney. 

Colorado State: The Rams took care of business at Air Force, avoiding a letdown after the huge win over UNLV earlier this week. Had Colorado State lost to the Falcons, most of the good vibes earned by the UNLV win would have been erased. That's irrelevant now, though. The Rams have a very solid resume, with wins over UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State, as well as a great computer profile. Moreover, Saturday's win gives them another road victory (they only have three). One in the MWC tourney should get it done. 

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs did what they needed to do to finish the season, winning their final two regular-season games and getting back to .500 in the SEC. They still have to do work in the SEC tournament, as the computer profile is mediocre. However, they do have eight top-100 wins, including victories over Vanderbilt, Alabama and fellow bubbler West Virginia. Mississippi State will need to get at least one win in the SEC tournament, and two wins would be more comforting. 

Oregon:
The Ducks continue to make a run toward at-large consideration, hammering Utah to finish 13-5 in the Pac-12. However, they are only 3-7 against the top 100 and 19 of their 22 wins are against teams ranked below 100. They are playing well at the right time, and the availability of Devoe Joseph is certainly something the committee will consider. They need to make a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament, though, as the profile is rather barren at this point.

Drexel: As the outright CAA champion, Drexel has a nice chip compared to some of the other bubble teams, but the Dragons need to get to the tournament title game to have a legitimate chance. They took the first step there by handling UNC-Wilmington in the quarterfinals. We’ll look again if they win in the semifinals.

VCU: Like Drexel, VCU needs to get to the title game to have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid. The Rams handled Northeastern on Saturday, meaning one more win would get them there. The Rams have a terrible SOS and two sub-100 losses, but they are very good away from home and did beat South Florida. The lack of meat on the resume could be a problem.

Tennessee: It seems there is another movement afoot to get the Volunteers some at-large consideration. I would still hold off on that talk, though. The computer profile is poor and they have four sub-100 losses. Even factoring in the arrival of Jarnell Stokes, the overall resume is still mediocre. With all that said, if the Vols get the No. 2 seed in the SEC tourney and make a run to the title game, things could get interesting.

Oral Roberts: The Golden Eagles nearly lost to IPFW in their first game of the Summit tournament, but they pulled out a win late to keep things somewhat interesting. I still think they need to win the automatic bid to get to the NCAA tournament, but a close loss in the title game could raise some questions. Zero top-50 wins is a major problem. 

Harvard:
Could the Crimson have survived a loss to Cornell and a second-place finish in the Ivy? We came close to finding out on Saturday night, as Harvard barely pulled out a win in the season finale. Now, the Crimson will wait and see what Penn does at Princeton this week. If the Quakers win, Harvard has a one-game playoff with Penn for the automatic bid. As far as at-large consideration, the win over Florida State looks good, but the schedule is terrible. 

Hurt itself

Kevin Willard knows his Seton Hall Pirates are in trouble. (US Presswire)

Seton Hall: The biggest bubble loser of the day has to be the Pirates. Going into the week, Seton Hall was in good shape. It just had to beat Rutgers and DePaul and things would be pretty comfortable heading into the Big East tournament. Well, the Pirates lost both games, including an absolutely embarrassing performance on Saturday against the Blue Demons. Things are now very shaky for Seton Hall. The Pirates finished just 8-10 in the Big East and have three sub-100 losses. They now have to win at least two games in the conference tournament; falling short of the quarterfinals won't get it done. 

South Florida: The Bulls had a chance to get a double-bye in the Big East tournament with a home win over West Virginia, which would have looked fantastic on the resume. However, they couldn’t make plays late in the game and dropped an important one to the Mountaineers. South Florida is only 2-7 against teams ranked in the top 50, but they have a solid computer profile and 12-6 in the Big East is nothing to scoff at. They need at least one win in the conference tourney, and most likely two.

Washington: If the Huskies had won the outright Pac-12 title, it would be a heck of a chip heading into Selection Sunday. However, after their loss at UCLA on Saturday, it's likely they will need to share the championship with California. The resume on its own is far from impressive. The Huskies have yet to beat an NCAA tournament team and 18 of their 21 wins are from the sub-100 region. The computer profile isn't awful, but Saturday's loss gives them a sub-100 loss. They need to reach the title game, at the very least.

Southern Miss:
 The Golden Eagles continue to make things difficult for themselves, after losing at Marshall to drop to 11-5 in Conference-USA. The RPI is still in the top 20 and they have a 9-4 record against the top 100, but there are also three sub-100 losses. Moreover, by finishing at 11-5, there is little separation betwen Southern Miss and the rest of the league. They have work to do in the conference tournament if they want to feel comfortable come Selection Sunday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide are still very likely to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, but they missed out on a chance to truly lock themselves in by losing at Ole Miss on Saturday. Alabama has a very solid computer profile and a 9-7 SEC record, with 10 wins against the top 100. The lack of truly good wins against the top 50 is something of a wart on the resume, but it would be tough to leave Alabama out at this point. Winning one game in the SEC tournament would solidify things, though.  

Texas: I'm not sure anyone actually thought the Longhorns were going to go into Lawrence on Senior Night and knock off Kansas, but the loss hurts nonetheless. Texas drops to 3-9 against the top 50 and 4-10 against the top 100, which doesn't compare favorably with most other bubblers. They also have two sub-100 losses. Getting the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament, Texas will have a quarterfinal matchup with Iowa State. The Longhorns need to win that one to have an at-large chance. Two wins would seal the deal. 

Long Beach State: A loss in the Big West championship game is one thing, but a loss in the season finale is quite another. The 49ers dropped Saturday night's game late to Cal State Fullerton, and now enter the conference tournament in some trouble. If they lose in the championship game, I'm not sure they can survive as an at-large team. They did beat Xavier and Pittsburgh in the non-conference, but neither win is all that impressive right now. They are 0-6 vs. the top 50 and now have a bad loss on the resume.

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Posted on: February 22, 2012 8:30 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 12:40 am
 

Poppin' Bubbles: Avoiding bad losses is key

Wyoming saw its bubble burst with an overtime loss at San Diego State. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

Tuesday was a prove-it day for bubble teams, as seven of them played ranked teams and another two had to pass road tests. Only three teams out of that group came out victorious. Wednesday is another huge night for bubblers, but in a different ways. Only a few have a chance to get statement wins, but nearly a dozen teams have to avoid bad losses. With so many different things at stake, we’ve expanded our categories too. 

Note: This page will be updated throughout the night, with bubble discussion and analysis. 

Status quo

Purdue: The Boilermakers didn’t suffer the same fate as Illinois over the weekend, throttling Nebraska out of the gate en route to an 83-65 win. The win moves the Boilermakers to 8-7 in the Big Ten heading into their final stretch against Michigan, Penn State and Indiana. If Purdue can get one of the two road games (Michigan, Indiana), it will feel awfully comfortable heading into the conference tournament.

Memphis: The Tigers suffered a really bad loss at home over the weekend to UTEP, so they could not afford to lose another questionable game. That wasn't a problem, as Memphis handled East Carolina with ease in the second half. The Tigers also took over first place in the league standings after Southern Miss' loss, but their Selection Sunday fate will be decided down the stretch. They have road trips to Marshall and Tulsa sandwiched around a home against UCF. The Tigers need to prove themselves in those three games.

Iowa State: Heading into a very difficult three-game stretch to finish the season, the Cyclones needed to beat Texas Tech on Wednesday to get to 10 wins in the Big 12. It wasn't as easy as expected, but they still dominated the final 10 minutes en route to an 18-point win. With road games at Kansas State and Missouri and a home date with Baylor still on the docket, Iowa State will have chances to seal its bid. One win would make the Cyclones feel pretty good.

Hurt itself

West Virginia
: The Mountaineers hung with Notre Dame for a half, but the Fighting Irish came out of the break with a bang and simply ran away with the game. The loss is West Virginia's sixth defeat in eight games, and drops them to 7-8 in the conference. On Friday, Marquette comes to Morgantown in a game that would really solidify the Mountaineers' at-large hopes. If they drop that one, they need to win the final two games of the regular season and then do some damage in the league tourney.

Southern Miss: Things are getting dicey for the Golden Eagles. They survived a loss to Houston over the weekend and remained in pretty good shape, but Wednesday's double-overtime loss to UTEP (by the way, when did the Miners become such a giant-killer?) moves them into suspect territory. They are now tied for second-place with Tulsa in the standings and have three sub-100 losses. Southern Miss has to survive its next two games -- Rice and SMU -- before the season finale against Marshall. The Golden Eagles are still in, but nowhere near as safe. 

South Florida: Despite a gaudy Big East record, the biggest knock on the Bulls is their lack of good wins and their soft conference schedule. They jumped out to a double-digit lead at Syracuse, but couldn't make plays late in the game and fell short. They are now 10-5 in the league with three games left. They have Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia remaining -- two of them coming at home -- so there are still chances. Right now, though, one good win over Seton Hall isn't getting it done.

Saint Joseph's: The Hawks were one of the final teams out of the bracket this week, but that will change next week after their loss at home to Richmond, which came into Wednesday with an RPI nearing 150. Unless the Hawks beat Temple and St. Bonaventure to finish the season and then get a couple quality wins in the Atlantic 10 tournament, Phil Martelli's club won't have a happy Selection Sunday.

Minnesota: Farewell, at-large hopes. The Golden Gophers have now lost four in a row and six of their last eight, and suffering a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State. Tubby Smith's troops had the game in their grasp, but completely malfunctioned in the last three and a half minutes and will now be relegated to the NIT. Barring a crazy run the rest of the season, Minnesota is done. 

UCF: The talk of the Knights as an at-large team seemed to be jumping the gun a little bit in the past couple weeks, and Wednesday's horrible second-half loss to Rice pushes them further out of the field. They now drop to a fourth-place tie in the league standings, and still have to go to Memphis in next-to-last game of the season. 14 of their 17 wins are sub-100. 

Still alive

Dayton:
The Flyers made it into several brackets this week on the basis of their seven top-100 wins and victories over Temple and Saint Louis. However, they are only one questionable loss from falling from the picture. They survived on Wednesday, going on the road and beating Duquesne. They still probably need to win their final three regular-season games.

Marshall:
The Thundering Herd shook off a double-digit first half deficit to dominate Houston in the second half. It is their third straight win, and with chances sitll remaining against Memphis and Southern Miss, Marshall has the opportunity to play itself into the league title -- and at-large -- race.

Drexel: The Dragons still have plenty of work to do to move into consideration for an at-large berth, but the Dragons stayed alive with a win over James Madison. An outright regular-season title could really help their profile, so they need to win at Old Dominion on Saturday and also hope George Mason drops one to VCU.

VCU: Like Drexel, VCU just needs to keep winning and hope quantity of wins is enough for the Selection Committee. The Rams survived a trip to UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday night, and now get a shot at co-league leader George Mason this weekend. A win there and a Drexel loss to Old Dominion would give the Rams a share of the regular-season title.

LSU: The Tigers popped on the radar in the past week, and they kept their winning ways going with a victory over Georgia on Wednesday. That's now four straight victories for the Tigers, leaving them 7-6 in the SEC -- good enough for fourth in the conference standings. If they can win out in the regular season, LSU will have an interesting at-large case. It owns wins over Marquette, Alabama and Mississippi State.

Bubble Popped

Wyoming:
The Cowboys looked like they were about to revive their at-large hopes by leading at San Diego State for most of the game. However, the Aztecs tied it late and then dominated the overtime period. Wyoming is now 4-7 in the Mountain West and in sixth place. Their at-large hopes are likely gone. 

Ole Miss:
The Rebels have completely fallen off since getting some serious consideration a couple weeks back. Their 13-point loss at Tennessee on Wednesday night was their third in a row, and fifth in their last six games. Barring an amazing run to -- at least -- the SEC title game, no NCAA for them. 

La Salle: If the Explorers could have won out and then done damage in the conference tournament, they had a chance. Their overtime loss to Temple on Wednesday ends their at-large hopes.  

George Mason: The Patriots can still win a share of the CAA title with a win over VCU this weekend and a Drexel loss, but their loss at Northeastern on Wednesday night ruins their at-large hopes. Despite their 14 CAA wins, they have just two top-100 wins and four sub-100 losses. 

Posted on: February 13, 2012 3:24 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 3:37 pm
 

Huggins with rare NIT appearance? Could happen

By Jeff Goodman

The NCAA tournament without Huggs. It doesn't happen often.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins took his Cincinnati team to the NCAA tournament in each of his final 14 seasons and has taken the Mountaineers to the Big Dance in each of his four years (including a Final Four appearance) with his alma mater. But after losing five of his last six games -- including three straight in Morgantown -- Huggins is in jeopardy of being NIT-bound. 

The only time that's happened in the last two decades was his first season at Kansas State in 2006, when he took over a team that wasn't all that talented and wound up going to the NIT. 

The talent level has fallen in Morgantown of late. That's one of the reasons why assistant Billy Hahn was demoted and is now off the road. 

This team has a stud in Kevin Jones. He's carried this team all year long, averaging 20.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Deniz Kilicli is a solid piece, but that's about it -- and when Truck Bryant is your No. 2 scoring option, let's face it: You're in trouble. Bryant has had some terrific games, but he's also capable -- and has done so plenty of times -- of shooting West Virginia out of the game. 

The Mountaineers were a lock for the NCAA tourney a month ago, but things can change fast. Now they have fallen to 16-10 overall and a game below the .500 mark in Big East play. The losing skid began with a road loss at St. John's, but the key moment may have been the non-goaltending call that would have sent the game to overtime at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. What followed was a loss at home to Pittsburgh, a victory at Providence and two more home setbacks against Notre Dame and Louisville. 

The young guards have shown promise, but freshman Jabarie Hinds wasn't ready to be a 30-minute-a-game-guy. Fellow frosh Gary Browne should be playing 10 minutes per contest, not 25. 

The Mountaineers are likely on the right side of The Bubble - for now. 

But now, after failing to protect its home court, it's time to take to the road and a hungry, resurgent Pittsburgh team awaits -- and then comes Notre Dame in South Bend. That could leave Huggs, one of the nation's top coaches, at 6-9 in Big East play with three winnable games left (Marquette and DePaul at home and at South Florida). 

Three games that West Virginia must win for Huggins to do what he have done as well as just about anyone over the years: Reach the Big Dance. 

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 5, 2012 3:10 pm
 

Afternoon quick-hits before Super Bowl XLVI

If not for Truck Bryant, center, WVU would have lost its fourth straight game Sunday. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Matt Norlander


I always love Super Bowl Sunday for the obvious reasons -- the food and friends and bloated American nature of it all -- but also because we now get at least one or two decent hoops games before the pigskin takes over. This afternoon, a few tilts of weight took place. Let's do a quick rundown on what happened and what it means.

1) West Virginia went into Providence and needed 45 minutes to get a win (87-84). It was a stop-the-bleeding W for WVU. Truck Bryant hit a layup to send the game into OT, then hit the game-winning 3 with no timeouts left and 3.3 remaining. Providence's Vincent Council missed a game-tying 3 to send it another five. The Mountaineers should be a tournament team; it was just two weeks ago, when WVU beat Cincy, that people thought his team could possibly be the Big East's second best. I never bought into that, but I have come around on this team getting to the bracket that matters.

Beating Providence was paramount to that journey. The Friars are dangerous yet not that good. (What I mean by that: Provy is growing and getting better, will probably steal a game at the Big East tournament, but this team isn't formidable just yet.) Now WVU has home game it has to win against Notre Dame and Louisville ahead. It's not out of the woods yet in the Big East. At 6-5, it's still totally possible this team finished 9-9 in the Big East. I don't think WVU is as good as everyone wants to make it -- a lot of that is due to the fact Kevin Jones is ridiculously valuable and talented -- but I'm going to enjoy watching what this team does/does not do in February.

2) On CBS, Draymond Green showed no effects of his bum knee. Michigan State handled Michigan at the Breslin Center, winning 64-54, splitting the season series. Green out-rebounded U of M, 15-14. Tom Izzo's group shook off that horrifying 42-41 L at Illinois and will remain a top-five KenPom team. Now, here's what to target. On Saturday, MSU goes to Ohio State. That's going to be a lot of fun -- and I think Michigan State stands a good chance at winning.

As for the Wolverines, the team is still very good. I love Trey Burke's game more and more. Here's the issue: it's stop and go with them. The past seven games have alternated wins and losses, which is better than streaks of consecutive losses, but February's when teams need to know how to reel off four and five straight. Overall, it looks like Michigan's not as aggressive as it should be, but part of that is Beilein's slow-boil approach.

3) The other game of note also came from the Big Ten and was very big for Tubby Smith. Nebraska's not too good, but Minnesota improved to 17-7 by winning on the road against the Cornhuskers, 69-61. The Big Ten can possibly send eight teams to the NCAAs because Minnesota's incredibly getting by without Trevor Mbakwe, but boy does the road ahead look scary. Gotta steal at least two games, for sure.
Posted on: February 1, 2012 3:07 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 4:29 pm
 

Huggins emotional when telling Spoonhour stories

Charlie Spoonhour. (AP)

By Jeff Goodman

Bob Huggins called him his big brother. 

Charlie Spoonhour died this morning at the age of 72. Huggins was about as close with Spoon since their days when they went up against one another in the Great Midwest. 

"I've had better days," Huggins said. "He hadn't been well for a long time. It hadn't been easy for him of late." 

Spoonhour received a lung transplant in 2010 after being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Spoonhour started his head coaching career in the junior college ranks, then took over at Southwest Missouri State before going to Saint Louis (1992-99) and UNLV (2001-04). 

"When we played Saint Louis before he got there, there were about 2,000 people in the stands," Huggins recalled. "One time I bet they had 20,000 or however many they could get in that place. People were running around with these huge spoons. It was like a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight atmosphere." 

His final record was 373-202 in 19 seasons. 

Huggins said he and Spoon talked just about every other day. 

"They'll never be another Spoon," Huggins said. "His charisma, the persona he had. He had an unbelievable magnetism about him. People always wanted to be around him." 

Huggins shared a few stories about Spoonhour. 

- The pair were playing in the Great Midwest tournament. Huggins in his room set to play DePaul and Joey Meyer and Saint Louis was ready to face Dayton and the phone rang. "Junior, it's my turn to host. I'm one floor above you. Come up here. If you don't know what Joey's going to run by now, you're not very smart. We sat upstairs, talked and laughed." Both teams advanced. Huggins then faced regular-season champion Memphis while Spoonhour and Saint Louis had a matchup with Marquette. The phone rang. "Junior, I believe it's your turn. He came to my room and we talked, told stories and laughed." Both teams won and then were set to play each other in the championship game. "The phone rang. "Junior, I'm a man of my word. It's my turn." Huggins walked in and Spoonhour's assistants -- who were watching film of Cincinnati - cut the film off. "Spoonhour just started laughing," Huggins recalled. "He was going to fire all those assistants. He knew what we ran. He didn't care." Later that afternoon, Spoonhour missed his pre-game meal and showed up at the doorway of Cincinnati's pre-game team meal. "He ate with all of our guys," Huggins said. "He actually ate pre-game with us." Huggins and Cincinnati wound up winning the game. 

- He said there was no one better at entertaining people at roasts than Spoonhour. "We did so many of them together," Huggins recalled. "So many guys get up there and aren't funny. Guys got up there with canned stuff, but his was just off the top of his head. People would always walk away saying they wished he would talk forever, He was that funny." 

- Huggins said Spoonhour called him one day, after Huggins had suffered a heart attack, and asked him what it was like. "I told him to get into the doctor and have it checked out. He was in the hospital and I remember him calling me and telling me he was going to retire in about an hour."

"He had a great appreciation for the professional and the people in the profession," Huggins said. "He was an incredible guy and one hell of a ball coach." 

Spoonhour is survived by his wife, Vicki, and two sons, Jay and Stephen. 


Posted on: January 30, 2012 11:40 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 11:41 pm
 

Night Court: First 50-point scorer of the season

Kevin Murphy, the man who scored 50 tonight. (US PRESSWIRE)
By Matt Norlander

Here’s everything you need to know about Monday night’s light slate of games …

Game of the Night:  Thank God Missouri had to play Texas on the road, because if this was in Columbia, I feel like we would’ve had to pick Pitt-WVU as the GotN. This just in last century: winning on the road in conference against competent teams is harder than spinning a ping pong ball on your pinky. Missouri learned the lesson again tonight, as it was unable to shake Texas off despite, largely, playing better than the ’Horns for the majority of the game.

Then came the elbow call on Michael Dixon that gave Texas two technical free throws and helped cut a 13-point deficit down to one with less than a minute to go. J’Covan Brown gave UT the lead on the next possession. Dixon, by the way, hit a ridiculous running, falling left-handed, high-arcing layup to give Mizzou the lead. It was the game winner, and Dixon was 9 for 10 from the field and finished with 21 points. Missouri is playing itself into a top seed. They remain a fascinating case study in teams that inexplicably do well with first-year coaches.

Win to brag about: It’s become an unpredictable college basketball season across the board, in almost every conference. Pittsburgh only adds to the haze with its 72-66 win at West Virginia, causing the Mountaineers to dip to .500 in Big East play while taking one in Morgantown. Seth Davis floated the possibility Pitt could become a faint factor in the bubble chase. To that I only say, Seth, I love ya, buddy.

Loss to hide from: I forgot to make the bed today. My fiancée came home in a huff. So I’m hiding from that — and her. I bring this up because there wasn't really a bad loss tonight. And on Jan. 30 college basketball needs to be offering us more than this.

Player who deserves improper benefits: Kevin Murphy became the first 50-point scorer in college basketball this season tonight. He had half a hundred in Tennessee Tech’s 98-80 home win over SIU-Edwardsville. Murphy, a senior, was 16-of-21 from the field, 6-of-9 from 3, 12-of-14 from the foul line, had seven rebounds and just one turnover. It all amounts to what is likely one of the best sports nights of his life and certainly the most impressive statistical performance in the senior’s college career.

The flip side of the game saw Jerome Jones from SIU-E have a season-high 25 points.

Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Shame on you for trimming that beard, Deniz Kilicli. Now it’s merely magnificent, instead of Zeusian.

Numbers don’t lie

  • 18. Texas Southern blew an 18-point lead to Alabama State and lost 66-59 in overtime. The ESPNU play-by-play man called it "one of the most startling and unexpected comebacks you will ever see this college basketball season." I don't know about you, but I'm taking his word for it.
  • 4. After a four-game drought where he was held below 20 points -- the only time that's happened this season -- Penn senior Zack Rosen got back to good, putting up 28 against Princeton. Jack Donaghy is not pleased.
  • 3. The number of BracketBusters games that are actually worthwhile. Check out our succinct breakdown of the games.
  • 83. The number of pages I burned through tonight "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." (Again, thanks for the slow night, CBB!) This book is not making me want to see the movie. Only 200 pages to go. I was told this thing picks up the pace 100 pages in. Lies.

Three other notable results

  1. Penn knocked off Princeton in the Ivy, which means Penn is still undefeated, which means they’re tied in the loss column with Harvard. I'd love a good Ivy race, but it feels like Harvard's going to win the league by at least two games.
  2. Norfolk State dropped its first game in the MEAC tonight (87-82 to Coppin State). Yeah, we’re scraping the barrel’s bottom.
  3. Central Florida, what are you doing playing Palm Beach Atlantic on Jan. 30? Are you not a major player in a respectable conference? Don’t schedule weaklings after Christmas if you want to be a big boy. Now, can someone help me get off this damn high horse?

Notes

  • Did you happen to catch Bob Knight’s mocha sweater tonight? I promptly put on a cup of hot chocolate.
  • I can’t stand the elbow = technical rule in principle. What Dixon tonight warranted two free throws, but all too often we’re seeing players get punished for a natural reaction with the ball. Can we agree to just keep the spirit of the rule alive but chop it to one free throw? That’s a compromise I can live with.
  • I’ll be speaking with Kevin Murphy about his 50-point game early Tuesday morning. Look for the post around lunchtime.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com