West Virginia is in trouble.
The Mountaineers looked for quite a while like they might be the surprise team in the Big East but have fallen upon dismal times, losing six of their last seven games, entering the week.
It hasn't been a matter of getting overwhelmed. Hardly. If that were the case, coach Bob Huggins could take it better, but WVU is giving close games away.
The last four losses were by a total of 15 points; one by two points, one by three points, one by four points and one by six points.
"I'm tired of ifs," Huggins said after West Virginia lost to Louisville at home. "I'm tired of 'If we would do this right, if we would do that right, if we wouldn't do this.' We need to do it."
The "ifs" and "buts" were best illustrated in the Louisville loss, a game that turned when center Deniz Kilicli picked up a technical for throwing the ball in the air after being called for a foul near halftime.
"I slinged the ball," Kilicli said. "I didn't just throw it. I've never done that. I lost it. It was just dumb."
The one bright light through it all has been the play of forward Kevin Jones, the leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year. He scored at least 20 points in 10 of the last 11 games, through the weekend, and had 17 double-doubles.
At the same time Kilicli's inside game has picked up dramatically, with him scoring a career-high 22 against Providence and 17 against Louisville. But that has been offset by a scoring slump for senior guard Truck Bryant.
--In the latest NCAA statistics through the weekend, F Kevin Jones was second in field goals made nationally, third in offensive rebounds per game, third in double-doubles, fourth in rebounds per game and 10th in points per game.
--West Virginia lost its last three home games, entering the week. The last time WVU lost three in a row at home was during the 2004-05 season when it lost to Boston College, Notre Dame and Connecticut.
BY THE NUMBERS: 32 and 0 -- Senior G Truck Bryant set a career-high by scoring 32 points against Providence on Feb. 5, then came back and was shut out by Notre Dame. It wasn't immediately known whether any player has ever scored 30 or more points in one game and then was shut out in the next. Bryant played all 40 minutes without scoring.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nobody's panicking. But fear? Fear is good for us now." -- Senior F Kevin Jones on WVU facing a situation where it might slip out of NCAA Tournament consideration if it keeps losing.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--at Pittsburgh, Feb. 16
KEY MATCHUPS: This is a tough week for a team heading in the wrong direction. The Mountaineers open at Pitt, where the Panthers seldom lose. The series goes back to 1906, and WVU holds a slim 95-88 lead. West Virginia has lost its last four in a row to Pitt, including a 72-66 decision in Morgantown this year.
The Mountaineers have lost six in a row at the Petersen Events Center. WVU could not control Pitt PG Tray Woodall in the opener as he scored 25.
--at Notre Dame, Feb. 22
KEY MATCHUPS: At another brutal place to play, WVU faces a team that was among the hottest in the country with six straight victories, entering the week. The Irish slowed things down to a crawl in beating WVU in Morgantown, winning 55-51. Notre Dame held Kevin Jones to just 14 points after he had scored 20 or more in nine straight games. C Jack Cooley was unstoppable for the Irish, scoring 21 with 12 rebounds. Forcing the Irish to play a more up-tempo game will be the prime focus for coach Bob Huggins.
FUTURES MARKET: F Dominique Rutledge is a 6-8 junior who came in after bouncing around junior colleges for a while, and got off to a slow start. Freshman Keaton Miles' struggles and injuries to big men Pat Forsythe and Kevin Noreen have forced him to play more and he has begun to produce. Rutledge played a career-high 20 minutes against Louisville and contributed a career-high five rebounds to go with six points and figures to see more and more playing time down the stretch.
--Senior G Truck Bryant scored 32 points against Providence on 11 for 22 shooting but in the four games wrapped around that, he has gone 9 for 41, which is 22 percent.
--Senior F Kevin Jones continues to lead the Big East in scoring and rebounding. Jones averaged 20.6 points and 11.2 rebounds a game. Talk about consistency, Jones also leads in both categories in Big East games only, averaging 19.9 points and 10.9 rebounds a game.