(photo courtesy of Dale Sparks)
Morgantown, West Virginia – Although the West Virginia Mountaineers have struggled and under-performed at times this season, they sit in 2nd place in the the Big 12 Conference at 13-5 overall and 6-3 in conference play.
They are, quite literally, right where they need to be to compete for a Big 12 Conference Championship and potentially make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament in March.
A huge win against Kansas was the perfect way to start their 6 game gauntlet, which features games at #12 Texas Tech, at home against #9 Oklahoma, back-to-back home and way games against #2 Baylor, and finally a game on the road at Texas.
If the Mountaineers can win three of these six games – and I fully expect them to – they’ll likely finish near the top of the Big 12 Conference and will secure a high seed for the Big 12 Championship Tournament. On a neutral court with no or few fans in attendance, West Virginia can compete with anyone in the conference.
In fact, the Mountaineers have proven that they can compete with anyone in the entire country this season. The undisputed best, most impressive team this season, Gonzaga, was down 5 points at the half against West Virginia before narrowly escaping with an 87-82 win back in early December.
Although the Mountaineers have faced adversity this season – specifically the transfer of Oscar Tshiebwe and the injury to freshman Isaiah Cottrell – they believe that they can do very special things this season.
This is a very deep, confident team that has already proven that they’re capable of hanging with the best teams in the country. Not only that, but several of their top players are peaking at just the right time.
Derek Culver looks more comfortable in the post without Tshiebwe and has become a real offensive/rebounding force. Taz Sherman has become one of the elite scorers in the Big 12. And Miles McBride is…well, Miles McBride – a natural leader and, more importantly, a winner.
While there have been more impressive teams in college basketball this season, no team has more confidence and belief in themselves than the West Virginia Mountaineers. They are mentally strong and ready for anything they’ll face over the next two months.