No Doubt Now, WVU Is In

If there was any doubt before, Saturday should have erased it: West Virginia has a resume worthy of an NCAA Tournament berth, and it will be a part of the Big Dance for the fifth time in as many seasons in the Bob Huggins era.

Huggins said after Tuesday's win over DePaul that he believed the Mountaineers had already done enough to secure an at-large bid, but there may have been some nervous times without Saturday's 50-44 win over South Florida.

In terms of RPI, the Bulls (at No. 35 coming into the game) are the second-best team WVU has beaten according to CBSSports.com's calculations. Only a January win over Georgetown ranked better.

It was West Virginia's 19th game against an RPI top 100 team, and the Mountaineers are now 9-10 in such games. They will end the regular season with a strength of schedule in the nation's top 15.

Perhaps just as importantly, Huggins and company have no awful losses. Their worst loss came on the road at St. John's, ranked 137th in the RPI. They only have one other loss to a team outside the RPI top 100.

They finished .500 in the Big East, a conference that again is threatening to get 10 teams in the field. They don't have to fight history, as no team has finished with a losing record in Big East regular season play and earned an at-large bid since Seton Hall in 1994.

Weak bubble or not, this is a resume worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid. Add in the flimsy track records of others fighting for their postseason lives, and there should be no doubt that the Mountaineers are safely in the field of 68.

Huggins' RPI figures were slightly different, but the message was the same.

"Twenty-two of 31 games against teams in the top 100 in the RPI -- there isn't any question," Huggins told the Mountaineer Sports Network of his team's postseason status. "This is another top 50 game and another top 50 win. So I don't think there's any doubt."

With that stress behind them, WVU should be able to head to New York City for its final Big East Tournament with a relatively carefree attitude. The battle now is purely for seeding purposes and pride.

It's a position West Virginia hasn't been in for a month, and one that could prove advantageous down the stretch, The Mountaineers have played like a tight, nervous team at times, losing games down the stretch against Notre Dame, Louisville and Marquette.

Huggins and company will either be the No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the Big East Tournament. It should have a winnable game (or perhaps two) to start its participation in the event. After that, who knows?

"I just told them, as long as we're having fun, let's just go to New York and win," Huggins said. "I think we can go win some more games."

Perhaps playing loose will benefit this team as it heads into postseason play. Confidence is an intangible that has real value in basketball, and for the first time in a long time, WVU may have that confidence on its side.


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