Morgantown, West Virginia – When the #6 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers welcome the 17th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys to the Coliseum today, there’s absolutely no question that it is the most important, critical game of the season for the Mountaineers. Here’s why:
It is not the typical Senior Night for West Virginia. To begin, the Coliseum will only have a sparse crowd and there may not be a ceremony at all. Seniors Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien have had tremendous senior seasons, but they are also eligible to return for another season if they choose to. While they deserve to be recognized for their outstanding contributions to the basketball program, it would almost feel like a push out the door if they are given a ceremony on this very unusual “Senior Night.”
If I had to guess right now, Sherman will likely pursue options playing professionally overseas after this season. He’s been quoted as saying, “The plan is to make some money next season, but we’ll see.” Osabuohien would be wise to return for another season, but again, the prospects of overseas money might be too great to pass up on for him.
Regardless, it’s the final regular season home game and it’s a big one.
#2 Seed in the Big 12 Tournament
The Big 12 Championship, held in Kansas City, will take place March 10th through the 13th. Right now, the Mountaineers hold their fate in their own hands. If they win, they clinch a #2 seed. If they lose, they could fall all the way to a #4 seed.
Kansas has completed their regular season and can only wait for the results of the West Virginia/Oklahoma State game to see where they will be ranked in the Big 12 Tournament. If the Mountaineers lose, they will be the #2 seed. If West Virginia wins, they remain at #3.
Texas plays TCU today. If West Virginia loses and Texas beats TCU, Texas would jump the Mountaineers for the 3rd seed.
The difference between the 2 seed and the 4 seed in the Big 12 Tournament is monumental, and that’s precisely why it’s key that West Virginia takes care of business today at home.
NCAA Tournament Implications
With a win today and a solid performance in the Big 12 Tournament, the Mountaineers will almost certainly be a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest they’ve been ranked in the tournament since the 2009-2010 team that was also ranked #2 on their way to a Final Four appearance.
A loss would not only likely put West Virginia as a 4 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, it would also like mean the Mountaineers would drop to a 3, 4, or even 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, particularly if they don’t fare well in the Big 12 Tournament.
Win #900 for Bob Huggins
The other major storyline happening today is Bob Huggins’ chase of an historic 900th career win. A 900th win at home in the final game of the season would be far more meaningful than a 900th win in the Big 12 Tournament or NCAA Tournament.
In addition, it would be great to get the monkey of 900 wins for Huggins off the backs of the team before heading into the post season, which could ultimately become a distraction for the team.
Ending the Regular Season on a High Note
The game of college basketball is about momentum and highs/lows, particularly in March. The Mountaineers could be riding high going into the postseason with a win, or on a major low with a loss today.
Oklahoma State has been on a real roll over the past several weeks, but their freshman star, Cade Cunningham, may or may not play today. Either way, West Virginia certainly understands the importance of today’s game and should be able to take care of business in what has become their most crucial game of the season.