Big 12 Conference Play Will Be a Litmus Test

Big 12 Conference play starts at the beginning of the new year, and each of its members, including WVU, will face a true measure of who’s a contender and who’s a pretender. The Big 12 is arguably the best conference in the nation currently with 3 top 10 teams, 5 top 25 teams, and the top two “others receiving votes” teams. The only other conference that may be able to contend with the top talent in the Big 12 is the Pac 12, with 3 teams themselves in the top 10, but from top to bottom, the Big 12 is superior. The Big 12 currently has a combined overall record of 96-16 so far this season. These wins aren’t just against inflated by beating up on poor opponents. The Big 12 Is 2nd in total Q1 wins, 3rd in total Q2 wins, and 3rd in total Q1 + Q2 wins despite having 4 less teams than the two conferences ahead of them (Big 10 and SEC). Additionally, the bottom of the Big 12 is stronger than the bottom of all the other conferences, and it is not close. The Big 12 has the least Q3 and Q4 losses of any Power 5 conference. Every other conference has at least 4 times as many losses to Q3 and Q4 opponents on the season. Big 12 Conference is going to going to hurt its members in as many ways as it No game is going to be a “gimme” for any team this year. Oklahoma State and TCU may be the weakest of the bunch, but they will each win several games. Baylor and Kansas are likely the teams to beat, but they will each have several losses. Every team will take it’s lumps, but by the time Selection Sunday rolls around, those that come out with a .500 record or better will move on an be a formidable opponent for any potential matchup come tournament time. For WVU, Big 12 play will pit Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil against some of the best defenses they will see all season. The defense of Keddie Johnson, Gabe Osabuohien, and Pauly Paulicap will be tested against teams with strong guard play and others who rely on length and athleticism. And young, developing stars like Kobe Johnson, Isaiah Cottrell, and Jalen Bridges will face an opportunity to raise their games up as teams try to counter WVU’s two-headed monster offensively. Bob Huggins has a with as much or more talent from top to bottom than it ever has. If WVU can adapt, rise to the challenge, and persevere, the Mountaineers ceiling is limitless.   Check out more of Brandon's analysis on the Mountaineers' basketball team and Big 12 play on the Voice of Motown Podcast below!

Mountaineers Big 12 Tournament landing spot odds

There are 10 seeds in the Big 12 Tournament. With only one game remaining before they embark to Kansas City to participate in their eighth Big 12 Tournament, the West Virginia Mountaineers could hold any one of five of them. The Mountaineers (20-10, 8-9 Big 12) could be as high as a No. 3 seed and as low as a No. 7 seed when they hit Kansas City next week. Their landing spot in the tournament is dependent on not only the outcome of their home game against No. 4 Baylor, but also the results of a number of other Big 12 match ups on Saturday. Obviously the higher the seed West Virginia obtains the better. But not all seeding differences are the same. The biggest gap is between seeds No. 6 and No. 7. The reason being a top six seed is so important is that seeds seven through 10 don't get a bye and have to play in the tournament's opening round on Wednesday night. Here's a look at the route available to each possible seed. WVU is a No. 3 seed if: West Virginia beats Baylor and Texas Tech loses at home to Kansas and Texas loses at home to Oklahoma St and Oklahoma loses at TCU Likelihood of this happening (all odds per ESPN BPI): 5 percent WVU is at least a No. 4 seed if: West Virginia beats Baylor and Oklahoma loses at TCU and Texas Tech loses at home to Kansas or Texas loses at home to Oklahoma State Likelihood of this happening: 22 percent WVU is at least a No. 5 seed if: West Virginia beats Baylor and Oklahoma loses at TCU Likelihood of this happening: 26 percent WVU is at least a No. 6 seed if: West Virginia beats Baylor or TCU loses at home to Oklahoma Likelihood of this happening: 77 percent WVU is a No. 7 seed if: West Virginia loses to Baylor and Oklahoma loses at TCU Likelihood of this happening: 23 percent

The Day Geno Smith Set the World on Fire

To say that defense was optional in September 29th, 2012 would be an understatement. West Virginia’s inaugural football game in the Big 12 turned into basketball on turf. The Mountaineers won 70-63 over the Baylor Bears in front of a sold out Milan Puskar Stadium. Stellar performances filled the stat sheets for both the Mountaineers and the Bears, but one stood out above the rest. According to WVUSports, Geno Smith set the school-record for both single-game passing yards (656), and single-game touchdown passes (8) against the Bears. Looking almost superhuman, Smith also finished with 88.8% completion for the game, going 45 for 51. Yes, Geno Smith finished with more touchdowns than incompletions against the Bears. Placed firmly as the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy at the conclusion of the game, Smith did not let the spotlight of the National stage affect him. While the stats are undoubtedly eye-popping, astoundingly, many of the passes from Smith were deep down the field. The Dana Holgorsen led offense had became know for the shovel pass which was ran with Tavon Austin quite often. Many would argue that this was a boost for the stats of Smith. In the case of Smith’s thrashing of the Baylor defense, he continuously found receivers open deep down the field. Four times over the course of the game, Smith tossed touchdown passes of over 45 yards. Not a bad feat for a quarterback who seemed as if he could not throw beyond the line of scrimmage. What will go down as possibly the greatest performance by a Mountaineer, Geno Smith showed that the air-raid offense had finally arrived in Morgantown. The Mountaineers and Smith had quite the inauguration into the Big 12.

Kansas State Has Five Players Arrested Over Weekend

Over the course of the last three days, the Kansas State Football program has had five players arrested. According to Total Pro Sports, running back Jarcardia Wright, defensive back Wayne Jones, and linebackers Nick Allen, Daniel Green, and DeMarqueese Hayes found themselves in the “pin” with arrests beginning on Saturday. Head Coach Chris Klieman voiced his displeasure with his team in a statement released Tuesday, “I am extremely disappointed in the poor choices by some of our student-athletes. We have high expectations within our program, and when those expectations are not met, there are consequences.” Kansas State announced that no further comments will be made on the issues. Head Coach Chris Klieman is expected to deal with the punishments internally.

Win over Iowa State wasn’t the best, but was the biggest

When historians - or the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee - delve into the West Virginia 2019-20 basketball season, Tuesday night's 77-71 win at Iowa State will be far from the Mountaineers most impressive victory. But it probably was their most important. The win was far from an aesthetic beauty for WVU, especially its performance after halftime. But to a famished man, a can of Spam tastes like filet mignion. And these Mountaineers were starving for a win. West Virginia (20-10, 8-9 Big 12) snapped a three-game losing streak and a six losses in seven games free fall in the win over a short-handed Iowa State (12-18, 5-12) team. The win likely sealed WVU's spot in the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season. It keeps the Mountaineers hopes for a bye in the Big 12 Tournament alive (albeit they'll likely need some help). As important as any of that was the possibility (hope?) that these young Mountaineers will gain a boost of much-needed confidence from just their second Big 12 road win of the season. WVU's first-half performance might have been the best basketball the Mountaineers have played all season. After weeks of anemic offensive output, they exploded in the first half in Ames, Iowa. The Mountaineers shot 56 percent from the field in the first half, nearly 20 percent better than they have during the past seven games. They hit 4 of 8 from the 3-point line in the half, finding a stroke that has been AWOL all year. And WVU's defensive returned to the form it showed for the first two-thirds of the season. The Mountaineers stifled Iowa State, holding the Cyclones to less than 40-percent shooting and took a commanding 44-31 lead into the locker room. But as has been the case for most of the past month, the Mountaineers can't seem to stand prosperity. Iowa State boat-raced WVU out of the locker room, outscoring West Virginia 20-4 in the first eight minutes of the second half, turning a 13-point deficit into a 51-48 lead. At this point, based on how WVU had played for the last three weeks, fans could have been forgiven for thinking "here we go again" in anticipation of another collapse. It seems the thought occurred to West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "We're really young and we haven't been in situations like that like veteran teams have," Huggins said of his team not maintaining its first-half excellence. "We've done some really dumb things, at times, and we've had games where we just turned it over repeatedly and got ourselves in holes we couldn't get back out of." Against Iowa State, they got out. And digging out from the hole was a team effort. Miles McBride gave the Mountaineers an offensive spark with his team-high tying 17 points, including hitting 4-for-4 critical free throws in the final 16 seconds to seal the game. Derek Culver was dominant, especially in the first half. Culver finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Oscar Tshiebwe's second-half play was instrumental in keeping the Mountaineers afloat during the Cyclones surge. Foul trouble rendered Tshiebwe a non-entity in the first half, as he sat for most of it and had just two points and took only two shots. He rebounded big time in the second half and finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Just as importantly, he was able to stay on the floor throughout the rest of the game despite playing with three fouls. Taz Sherman also tallied double-figure scoring, racking up 12 points including a pair of 3-pointers for WVU. Tuesday night's win doesn't solve all of WVU's problems. It doesn't come close. As Huggins alluded, the eight-minute stretch at the start of the second half almost completely undid 32 minutes of well-played basketball. The Mountaineers survived that lapse against a bad and undermanned Iowa State team. They won't against the better competition that is to come. But the most important thing the Mountaineers needed to do in Ames was win. They did. A team's most important win isn't always its best one.

Iowa State could be a must win for WVU tournament hopes

West Virginia may or may not have to play in the NCAA Tournament play-in game in Dayton, Ohio, in a little more than two weeks. But it’s quite possible that the Mountaineers (19-10, 7-9 Big 12) game at Iowa State on Tuesday will serve as a de facto NCAA Tournament play-in game. At least for them. It’s unthinkable that we’re having this discussion. On Feb. 8, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee had the Mountaineers as a No. 2 seed in its early reveal release. On March 1, West Virginia is staring into the abyss that is the NIT. West Virginia is 1-6 since that early reveal. It’s nearly impossible for a team to play itself from a No. 2 seed into a bubble team in less than a month. Yet here we are. How unprecedented is this slide? If the Mountaineers don’t make the tournament, they will be the only one of the 64 teams to earn a spot on the early reveal to miss out completely. And they will have done it as one of the best eight teams in the country at the time. Before Saturday’s 73-62 home loss to Oklahoma, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had West Virginia as a No. 7 seed. A home loss to a bubble team (Lunardi had the Sooners as one of his “last four in”) likely drops WVU a seed or two. WVU will likely go into the Iowa State game as a projected No. 8-10 seed, depending on the prognostication. A loss to a terrible Iowa State team will plummet those projections further. The lowest seeded at-large teams are usually seeded 11th. Lower than that, hello NIT. After Iowa State, WVU closes the season hosting No. 2 Baylor, a team that beat the Mountaineers, 70-59, in Waco, Texas, on Feb. 15. The game wasn’t as close as the score suggests. Any realistic hope for a win there? That leaves Iowa State as the game the Mountaineers have the best chance of winning. If WVU loses to both Iowa State and Baylor, the Mountaineers will be a No. 7 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and will not get a bye. Even if they beat Iowa State and lose to Baylor, they would need TCU to lose one of its remaining games – at Kansas and at home against Oklahoma – just to get a Big 12 Tournament bye. A team that a little more than three weeks ago the official NCAA Tournament Selection Committee deemed to be one of the best eight in the country faces a likely do-for-die game against a 12-17 team that’s in next to last place in its conference. In a season filled with inexplicable turns, this might be the most unfathomable of all.

Home cooked: Coliseum no cure as disastrous collapse continues

A stamp costs 55 cents. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins might want to dig in his pockets for some change, because his Mountaineers appear to be fully committed to mailing this season in A beleaguered West Virginia team returned home on Saturday. Fans believed (hoped?) that an arrival to the friendly confines of the WVU Coliseum would snap the Mountaineers out of their February malaise that resulted in five losses in their last six games. It did no such thing. Oklahoma (18-11, 8-8 Big 12) embarrassed the Mountaineers, 73-62, on Saturday. A WVU contingent that arrived at the Coliseum desperate but hopeful departed in depressed resignation. There are two regular-season games left to play, plus the Big 12 Tournament and whatever post-season tournament invites the Mountaineers (19-10, 7-9). In what was unthinkable even a week ago, that tournament is as likely to be the NIT as the NCAA. Maybe more so. Glass half-full fans (or one-tenth full might be more accurate here) will point to the frantic effort the Mountaineers gave in the last six minutes. WVU cut a 20-plus point Sooners lead to eight with two minutes left. But that is a case of way too little, way too late. West Virginia legend Rod Thorn, who had his number 44 retired on Saturday, implored the Mountaineers during the halftime ceremony. “We need to play a great second half,” Thorn told the crowd. His alma mater didn’t take heed. This game was lost in the first five to 10 minutes of that second half. Oklahoma turned a four-point halftime lead into more than 20 points during that stretch. One team opened the second half with the energy one would expect from a home team in search of a desperately needed win. That team wasn’t West Virginia. The Mountaineers offense looked discombobulated (as it has for a month). WVU was awful in every aspect of shooting: Field goals (24-for 70, 34.3 percent); foul shots (10-for-19, 52.6 percent); and 3-point shooting (4-for-25, 16 percent). Those numbers are in line with what the Mountaineers have shot during this six losses in seven games stretch. Their defense had numerous lapses that resulted in far too many open shots (as it has for a month). Oklahoma lit up the Mountaineers defense, hitting 26-for-53 from the field (49.1 percent). That, too, is about in line for what the Mountaineers have allowed during this six losses in seven games stretch. Oklahoma had four players - Kristian Doolittle (19 points) Brady Manek (15), Austin Reaves (13) and Jamal Bieniemy (12) – in double figures. The Mountaineers had one - Miles McBride (13). The awful shooting is frustrating, but this hasn’t been a good shooting team all season. It’s the defensive collapse that is most troublesome. Statistically, the Mountaineers have gone from one of the best defensive teams in the country to one of the worst. Shooting can run hot and cold. Defense does not. This speaks to deeper internal problems of effort and focus, which Huggins has diagnosed but failed to fix. "In my all years, I haven't gone through a year like a year ago and the end of this year," Huggins said. "I've never gone through it." The Mountaineers have ANOTHER chance to try salvage this late-season disaster on Tuesday when they travel to Iowa State. They close the regular season at home against No. 2 Baylor on March 7. St. Jude would struggle to find hope for another victory this season. This team looks nothing like the one that played so well and so hard for the first two-thirds of the season. This team looks troublingly similar to the 2018-19 train wreck of a squad. At least last year’s team got better late in the season. This year’s West Virginia team is instead doing its best “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” impersonation.

Desperate WVU returns home in search of much-needed win over OU

The bad news is West Virginia has lost five of its last six games. The Mountaineers have gone from a team in position to secure a high seed and favorable locale in the NCAA Tournament to a team that is staring at the NCAA Tournament bubble and maybe even (gulp) the NIT over the horizon. The good news is WVU is at home on Saturday. The Mountaineers are the Big 12's worst road team. They're tied with the league's best teams (No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Baylor) in conference home record (6-1). Oklahoma (17-11, 7-8 Big 12) visits the Coliseum on Saturday in a critical game for both teams. Both the Sooners and Mountaineers (19-9, 7-8) seek victories to solidify their NCAA and Big 12 tournament seed and position. The teams are in a three-way tie (along with Texas) for fourth-through-sixth place in the conference. Conference finish is important because teams that finish sixth and higher get an opening-round bye in the Big 12 Conference Tournament. TCU (15-13, 6-9) is currently in seventh place, a game behind those three. Oklahoma is struggling almost as much as the Mountaineers. The Sooners have dropped four of their last six. They did win their last game, a 65-51 win over Texas Tech on Tuesday. The Sooners also won their previous matchup against West Virginia, a 69-59 win in Norman, Okla., on Feb. 8. Senior forward Kristian Doolittle paces the Sooners, leading the team in points (15.5 points per game) and rebounds (8.9 per game). He dominated the Mountaineers in the first meeting, tallying a double-double with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds. Jermaine Haley (15 points) and Oscar Tshiebwe (12 points, nine rebounds) led WVU in the first-meeting defeat at OU. If the Mountaineers are going to reverse their recent slide, they need to shoot better than they have during the skid - and than they did in the first meeting in Oklahoma. West Virginia hit just 31.6 percent in the first meeting. The Mountaineers have shot just 36.6 percent from the field during their last six games. WVU also needs to play better defense against OU than it has recently or the first meeting. The Sooners hit 44.9 percent of their shots in the victory in Norman. That is similar to how teams have shot against the Mountaineers during the last six games (45.4 percent). On the season, WVU ranks 11th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (38.4 percent). The Mountaineers need to return to that kind of defense if they hope to stop their current slide. The analytics are very favorable for the West Virginia against the Sooners. ESPN BPI gives the Mountaineers a 90.1 percent odds of victory. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers were BPI favorites in their last two games - at TCU and at Texas. Both ended in defeat. Vegas is also bullish on the Mountaineers, making them a 8 1/2 point betting favorite. The game tips off at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Late-season collapse gets worse

West Virginia’s season didn’t end in Austin, Texas, on Monday night. But it sure feels like it. The Mountaineers 67-57 loss at Texas (16-11, 7-8 Big 12) on Monday night was their seventh Big 12 road loss in eight tries. It was WVU’s (19-9, 7-8) fifth loss in its last six games. What was a late-season struggle is turning into an epic collapse. All the usual suspects were on full display on Monday night. Poor shooting from the field (22-for-50, 44 percent). Terrible shooting from the free-throw line (10-for-21, 47.6 percent). Abysmal shooting from beyond the 3-point line (3-for-11, 27.3 percent). Mountaineers not named Sean McNeil were 0-for-8 from outside the arc Monday night. It wasn’t just the offense that let down WVU on Monday night. Through the first half to two-thirds of the season, the Mountaineers were one of the best defensive teams in the country. They were one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They did neither well on Monday night. Texas shot a ridiculous 22-for-42 (52.4 percent) from the field and 9-for-22 (40.9 percent) from 3-point range. Texas came into the game hitting 42 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the 3-point line. The Longhorns were hot Monday night. But a lackluster West Virginia defensive effort played a significant role. The Mountaineers also didn’t rebound with their usual ferocity in Austin. The teams finished even with 29 boards apiece. For a team as offensively challenged as the Mountaineers, that can’t happen. If you want to look at individual bright spots, there’s McNeil’s 13 points and three 3-pointers which helped keep the team in the game. Oscar Tshiebwe scored a team-high 14 points and Derek Culver had 12. Culver’s night would have been better if he hadn’t shot 2-for-8 from the foul line. None of that seems the least bit important now. Those numbers are but a few trees amongst a freefalling season’s forest. Texas is playing better. The win over WVU was the Longhorns third straight in an effort to resurrect a season that appeared to be headed towards complete disaster and coach Shaka Smart’s firing. But the previous two wins were over Big 12 bottom-half teams TCU and Iowa State. Monday night’s win over West Virginia was the Longhorns first against a team projected to make the NCAA Tournament. But will the Mountaineers actually make that tournament? What not long ago was a ridiculous proposition is becoming, if not likely, at least a consideration. A little more than three weeks ago, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee had the Mountaineers as a No. 2 seed in its early reveal release. The team that earned such high acclaim and the one on display in Austin on Monday night seem like two completely different squads who happen to wear the same uniform. In little more than a month’s time, West Virginia has gone from a 38-point victory over Texas to a 10-point loss. That’s a 48-point swing. Forty-eight points. In 33 days. To say that it’s imperative that WVU coach Bob Huggins get this corrected immediately is the ultimate “Captain Obvious.” The truth is, if Huggins had a solution, he would have implemented it weeks ago. He’s tried shuffling lineups and combinations. It’s all amounted to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. During the ESPN broadcast of the game, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the network’s tournament bracketologist, said WVU drops a half a seed with each loss. Lunardi had West Virginia as a five seed before the Texas game. The Mountaineers have three regular-season games left: At home against Oklahoma on Saturday, at Iowa State March 3 and home against No. 2 Baylor March 7. After what we’ve seen the past three weeks, would anyone be shocked if they lost all three? Using Lunardi’s math, even that level of collapse shouldn’t keep the Mountaineers out. But maybe it should.

Road killed: Season-long problems find no solutions in loss at TCU

The emotions related to West Virginia's 67-60 overtime loss at TCU on Saturday would fit seamlessly into the opening paragraph of the Charles Dickens classic Tale of Two Cities. It was totally inexplicable, it was totally expectant. Slip this game behind "It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity" With 87 percent of the regular season and 77 percent of the conference regular season completed, in regards to this particular version of the West Virginia basketball team, what we've seen is what we're going to get. Another late, great philosopher, Dennis Green, can surmise it best West Virginia (19-8, 7-7 Big 12) had no business losing to TCU (15-12, 6-8). Yet here we are - again. Again, the Mountaineers lose a conference game on the road (1-6 this season). Again, West Virginia shoots poorly from the field (25-of-62, 40.3 percent). Again, West Virginia shoots poorly from the foul line (8-for-15, 53.3 percent). Again, the Mountaineers shoot from 3-point range (2-for-17, 11.8 percent) like their starring in Bird Box It's time to accept that the Mountaineers are who they're showing us they are. The shooting woes present a lower ceiling for this team than it appeared to have through the first quarter of conference play. There just aren't consistent outside shooters to allow the Mountaineers to score enough to advance deep into either the Big 12 or NCAA tournaments. The lack of a credible outside threat also jams up the inside for Derek Culver, Oscar Tshiebwe and the other WVU big men. With teams not respecting the Mountaineers jump shooters, points in the paint become exponentially harder to come by. This team is too young to handle the road in the Big 12. The 1-6 conference road record speaks for itself. After some really bad road efforts early in conference play (losing 84-68 at last-place Kansas State being the worst example), the hope was that the team would mature and better handle winnable conference road contests. Laying an egg in a less than half-full gym in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday afternoon shows that hasn't happened. Saturday's upset loss at TCU was more than just an issue with playing on the road, however. A change in venue from Morgantown to Fort Worth isn't worth the 39-point swing between the Mountaineers 32-point win in January and their seven-point loss Saturday. It appears that this young team has hit the "wall." West Virginia is the youngest team in the Big 12. Many of the Mountaineers players are playing more and tougher games than they have in their lives. This happens. A lot. Even though coach Bob Huggins goes 10 deep, it's possible - actually probable - that the wear and tear of Power 6 conference basketball is taking its toll. The bright spots in this very dark defeat was the offensive effort of Taz Sherman. Sherman is becoming the Mountaineers most consistent scoring guard. He had 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2-for-5 from 3-point range) in the loss. Culver at times single handedly keep the Mountaineers in the game. He finished with a double-double, tallying team highs in points (18) and rebounds (12). The dark spots were very dark. TCU's 19-2 run from late in the first half through the start of the second half might be the darkest moment of the season. The Mountaineers led, 31-21, and seemed in prime position to bury the inferior Horned Frogs. But then TCU absolutely dominated WVU in a way it never should have been allowed. A game that was firmly in place for the Mountaineers to take control of turned into a 41-33 hole they spent the rest of the second half digging themselves out from. Tshiebwe had one of his ghost games Saturday. He played 15 minutes and had one point and five rebounds. The freshman's inconsistency that sometimes results in performances like Saturday is one of the reasons Tshiebwe is more likely than not to return for his sophomore season. Culver and Sherman were the only Mountaineers in double-figure scoring. No one else had more than six points. This speaks to the offensive deficits Huggins faces. The Mountaineers will make another attempt at righting a sinking ship Monday when they return to the road to play Texas. When the Mountaineers and Longhorns met in Morgantown in January WVU throttled Texas by 38 points. But as WVU showed at TCU on Saturday, that has little bearing on current events.