So we’re at the halfway point of the WVU basketball season (give or take) and a team that was gasping for air at 0-2 in the Big East graduated to treading water and then tearing across the pool in the space of 12 days. With spirits as high as they’ve been this season following a gutty home win over Purdue, it seemed like a good time to step back and cast our gaze forward, charting the rest of the season and projecting where the Mountaineers could end up.
I considered going game by game and generating a final tally, but that presented two problems. First it takes a long time and my 2-year-old is going to wake up from nap any moment. Second I am what I am, a Mountaineer fan who will err on the side of picking WVU in any game – which would result in skewed projections that don’t do us any good.
I settled on a projection method I first employed as part of an email discussion with friends last year. Unfortunately I have no idea where that old email is and thus no idea how accurate the projections were – but this year I’m recording it for all of us to see. It is a highly complex and finely calibrated system that I’m sure will knock your sock off with its sophistication.
Here it is. (Pause for dramatic effect):
Basically I take every game remaining and assign them one of 3 categories as follows:
A) Very Winnable, meaning all things being equal it’s a game WVU should win. Most home games fall in this category unless they’re against one of the Big Boys – G’town, Syracuse, Pitt, etc. Also any game against DePaul, Provy, South Florida, Rutgers fall into this category. Figure you pull 4 out of 5 in these Very Winnable games. Precious few of these in the Big East.
B) 50/50 games. Pretty self-explanatory (as you can tell I put a lot of thought into naming this category). Homes games against tough opponents or road games against decent teams. Should be able to split these games. Every home game that isn’t in the first category falls into this category, because my Dad taught me when I was 10 that WVU could play the damn Lakers straight up at home. Or even the Heat this year - because you KNOW De’Shawn would defect. Moving on.
C) Tall Orders. These are the road games against the top 5 or 6 teams in the Big East. Basically if it’s a 50/50 game in the Coliseum, it’s a Tall Order on the road. Except for Pitt. Pitt can go to hell. WVU should never lose to a Pitt team in the Coliseum, Peterson Events Center or anywhere else on the planet. I refuse to put them in the Tall Order category until they refuse to stop eating sh*t. I digress.
So there you go. Now lets proceed with the schedule and drop these games into their appropriate category:
First the Very Winnables - Marshall (in the Charleson Civic Center), South Florida, Seton Hall, DePaul, @ Rutgers, – all Very Winnable. That’s 5 games. WVU should take 4 of these at worst. Losses here are very painful because a) you missed a chance to pick up a win and b) the loss kills the resume. Don’t lose any of these.
Next the 50/50s – @Cincy, Pitt, Notre Dame, @Pitt, UConn, Louisville – 3 up and 3 down, or as Robin Williams would say, “the end of an inning.” WVU should play these games tight and if they are truly to be a tourney team need to split them. Any of them is a good resume builder but even if you drop them they don’t hurt you too bad.
And finally the Tall Orders – @Louisville, @Villanova, @Syracuse. Any win here is gravy, but don’t expect it. A W that come from this category is resume gold and can offset mistakes in the above 2 categories. Losses have no real penalty.
Broken down like that, you get 8 wins and 6 losses (sweeping the VWs, splitting the 50/50s and dropping all TOs) . That would put the ‘eers at 10-8 in conference and 20-10 overall. Not too shabby. There’s even a little margin for error built in. Say they drop one more 50/50 then they should (but not either Pitt game, dammit). Would leave them at 19-11 and 9-9 in conference. Still serviceable. It’s worth noting here every team that finished .500 or above in the Big East made the NCAA Tournament last season. Also WVU would have a resume strengthened by wins against Vanderbilt and Purdue. And all this is before the Big East Tourney in Madison Square Garden, or as I like to call it, the Big Coliseum Up North.
All in all it paints a surprisingly rosy picture for the postseason prospects of a team that seemed to be NIT bound just 13 days ago. I’d put NCAA chances at around 60% with the “magic number” at around 8 (note that this includes Big East Tourney games as well) - always depending on which games they win or lose. So take heart fellow Mountaineer faithful. Put a little pep in your step and get that swagger back.
(looking around to make sure no other fans are watching. Ok. I’m whispering now.) Please join me in a small prayer to the NCAA gods that we jump in as a 7 or 8 seed and can get a rubber match against a certain team from Durham that will probably be in the 1 or 2 range. Shh. Don’t tell anyone. They’ll never see it coming.
Filed under: WVU Basketball | Tagged: Gus Johnson, NCAA Tournament, WVU Basketball | 2 Comments »