Mazey, discussing the nearly all-freshman lineup he put on the field for the second game of the day against the Paladins, made a couple of not so-oblique references to their effort and enthusiasm. When asked a follow-up question as to whether or not that was due to a lack of satisfaction with some of the players that started the first game, Mazey had a telling, if somewhat roundabout, response.
“Is that the politically correct way of asking that question?” Mazey responded. “Then I need to find a politically correct way to answer it.”
After a bit more byplay, Mazey finally gave a simple answer about the perceived lack of effort.
“Yes,” he summed up. “It was just a bad effort in game one.”
With that, WVU is again expected to put a youth-dominated lineup on the field against Pitt on Tuesday evening, with the understanding that there's no margin left for error. The fourth-year head coach, after watching the Mountaineers drop games to low RPI teams such as Canisius, Charleston Southern and Hawaii, as well as to non-Top 100 teams such as Penn State, knows that any chance of making the NCAA tournament as an at-large entrant is slipping away fast. The Mountaineers sit at 82 in the RPI on Tuesday morning after dropping two of three to the 164th-rated Paladins, and must now avoid any further bad losses, as well as win its remaining five Big 12 series in order to have any hope of sneaking back into the mix. There's also the issue of a lacking win total, which was what kept the Mountaineers out of the 2014 posteason despite a good RPI of 38. West Virginia's 28 wins that year weren't good enough, and it will likely take at least 32 or 33, along with an RPI in the 40s, to get consideration.
Of course, these numbers are all relative – not absolute. However, they are reasonable benchmarks that hold true for selections of past years, and as such are reasonable goals. Right now, though, the Mountaineers are a long way from them.
With 17 wins, WVU needs a minimum of 15 more, and likely 16 or 17, in order to get its win total where it needs to be. The problem is that WVU has just 24 regular season games left, meaning that it can't afford another out of conference stumble, and would also need to win the majority of its five remaining league series.
Even with those wins, though, the RPI comes back into play. Other than Pitt (RPI 33), which WVU faces on Tuesday and on May 17th, and Maryland (43) there aren't a lot of out of conference games left that will boost the RPI. So, the Mountaineers pretty much have to sweep those nine games, then go better than .500 in the remaining five Big 12 series.Even there, RPI is a question, as only Texas Tech (13) is solidly in the Top 100.
Which brings us back to the the opening of this column. Were the Mountaineers just battling a stretch of rocky play, such a run might seem doable, if unlikely. But with effort or attention of at least some upperclassmen in question, is a 17-7 finish a possibility? For now, Mazey is going to find out if the freshmen can spark a change, or light a fire under some of those players who were benched in the Sunday opener.
I've enjoyed watching that game as much as I've enjoyed watching any game this year,” Mazey said of the freshman-dominated back end of the doubleheader. “When you face adversity you have two choices. You can get better or you can get bitter. We are looking for guys that want to get better, and those that want to get better are going to play.”