Cover Photo: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Morgantown, West Virginia – The West Virginia Mountaineers (19-14, 7-11) went through a roller coaster, up and down season this year, but the records are erased now and a whole new season starts when the NCAA Tournament begins tomorrow.
Opening up against the Maryland Terrapins (21-12, 11-9) is exactly what the Mountaineers wanted. While the Terps have been tremendous at home (16-1), they have been miserable on the road this season. Maryland is 2-9 on the road this season and that was against a very average schedule.
West Virginia also wasn’t spectacular on the road (6-10 on the road and at neutral site games), but the Mountaineers faced the 5th-toughest schedule in the country and was able to get huge wins on the road against Pittsburgh, Iowa State and Texas Tech.
If/when the Mountaineers get past Maryland in the opening round, they will likely face the #1 overall seed in the tournament in the Alabama Crimson Tide (29-5, 16-2). The game will be played in Birmingham, Alabama, which will essentially make it a home game for the Tide, but playing in the SEC is very different than playing in the Big 12 Conference.
Alabama was dominant against SEC teams, but the one time that they played a Big 12 team this season, they were hammered 93-69 by the Oklahoma Sooners. West Virginia played only one SEC this season, the Auburn Tigers, and they won, 80-77. Alabama played Auburn twice, winning 77-69 on the road and 90-85 at home.
Alabama has played extraordinarily well down the stretch, and they will have the home court advantage, but the Mountaineers have kept virtually every game close this season and they are battle-tested and very capable of upsetting anyone anywhere.
I’ve said all season that West Virginia is a Sweet 16 or better team and they have gotten better and better as the season has gone on, so don’t be surprised when the Mountaineers make some major noise and make a big run over the next couple of weeks.