As drops began to sprinkle down on the diamond at Appalachian Power Park on Wednesday evening, hopes of getting a make-up game in against Marshall washed away. While that won't affect the Herd much, the loss of a chance at another victory could be a critical one for the Mountaineers.
While WVU does have an outstanding RPI (currently 26 in the official rankings produced and used by the NCAA), the Mountaineers are still a bit shy in terms of total wins needed to lock up a spot in the tournament. Currently holding a 24-16 record (7-7 in the Big 12), West Virginia probably needs to win at least six more games to be a realistic contender for an at-large bid.
Before we go any further, it should be noted that wins (or a high RPI) aren't the be-all and end-all of an at-large selection. They are two items that carry weight, but there are others, such as willingness to play tough teams out of conference and to go on the road, just to name a pair. However, there's no doubt that wins are an important factor.
A look at last year's at-large pool provides at least a glimpse of this in play. In 2013, 34 teams were selected with as at-large participants to the tournament. Of those, only two teams had fewer than 34 wins (Florida, with 29 to go along with a 48 RPI, and Texas A&M 32/32). Five teams with 34 wins made the cut, with RPIs ranging from 21 to 57.
By that standard, WVU looks pretty strong with its lofty RPI at the moment. No team with an RPI of 30 or better missed the tournament a year ago. However, it's the wins that are more important here, both in terms of totals and in keeping WVU's RPI high. With 11 games to go before the Big 12 tournament, a collapse would not only hinder the win total, but also lower the RPI - a double play that would wipe WVU off the bubble.
That's where the two cancelled games in Charleston really have an effect. The Mountaineers had two wins over Baylor in a weekend series that was set for Mar. 28-30, but the combination of bad weather and a horrendous decision to also have Marshall playing three games over the same three days kept the WVU from getting all three games in. A likely third win over Baylor would have put West Virginia one game over .500 in the league at this point, and also boosted its win total to 25. It's also not unreasonable to assume that West Virginia would have again downed the Herd after mashing them 10-3 a week ago in Morgantown. That would have WVU at 26 wins heading into the final three weekends of the season.
Still, even with those washed out opportunities, the Mountaineers have a good chance to earn their way in. Wins over Virginia Tech and Maryland in the final two non-conference games will be important, and if those can be obtained a 4-5 record in the final nine league games should be enough to give WVU some breathing room. There's also at least two more chances for wins in the Big 12 tournament, and if Randy Mazey's squad could add another victory or two there, it probably won't have to sweat out selection day.RIFLE REPORTS
Weather remains a factor, and each rainout reduces the chance to add to the win total. That's the number that's important now, and the one to watch as WVU heads for a hoped for postseason date.
* * *
Even with analysis of past seasons and current projections, it's still tough to judge just how this West Virginia team will be judged in terms of an at-large bid. If it can keep its RPI around 30, a similar number of wins could get them in. Or, members of the selection committee might weigh wins more heavily, meaning a total in the mid-30s will be required to be safe. The answers to that question won't be known until the teams are announced on May 26.