Present vs. Future

Although head coach John Beilein tried to maintain his "one day at a time" mantra, a couple of thoughts about West Virginia's revitalized NCAA hopes are admittedly crossing his mind.

In recapping the Mountaineers' exciting come-from-behind 70-66 win over Pitt on Wednesday, Beilein stuck to his usual script of concentrating on the tasks at hand, but did sneak a couple of peeks ahead to the potential prize – an NCAA bid.

"Last night's victory was just a great win for us. We could have gone south but our kids stood strong, hung in there and got a win" the veteran coach said Thursday. "We have so much respect for Pitt. They have a great home court, coaching staff and players. This win is up there because I have so much respect for what Pitt has accomplished the last few years in Big East, and the home court dominance they have established. So, for a benchmark in the program, I'd say this is a big step in the right direction.

"You are never set for the NCAA," Beilein said when asked of his confidence level of making the Big Dance. "The only time you are set is when you win the Big East tournament or are a top 25 team going in. We've dreamed about this since we've been here, and we are ‘in position to get into position', but we have to play with our strengths.

"One of those strengths is focus," Beilein continued. "We will watch a lot of film today, both of ourselves and Rutgers. That's what today is about – getting better. We have a veteran group that got postseason experience last year in NIT, so we think they know how to do that. And along the way, we will make sure they enjoy it."


Beilein noted that improving the Mountaineers' defense remains a key for WVU's post season hopes.

"We must play better defense, and part of that is a better offense," he explained. "If we can score the ball, it allows us to set our defense like we want. We weren't able to do that in the first half, and they scored some in transition on us."

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WVU hosts Rutgers for Senior Day on Saturday at the Coliseum, but Beilein isn't about to overlook the Scarlet Knights, who got back on track with an out of conference win over Arkansas-Monticello on Wednesday.

"Rutgers is so darn dangerous," the Mountaineer mentor warned. "Quincy Douby got hot again last night, and he and Ricky Shields have beaten us before. We have to forget about Pitt and have a good practice and get ready for Rutgers."

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WVU is riding the crest of a wave of confidence now, something that they lost in the middle of the season.

"The LSU win huge," Beilein recounted, "especially as they climb up the ladder. We want to play games like that. We had a rude awakening at Villanova, though. Had they already beaten Kansas, we might have been more rational about it and the way we lost, but it devastated our confidence. The kids thought we weren't a good team even though we were 10-1. Then we squeaked by St. John's, and lost three in a row. But once we got through that stretch, and beat Pitt at home, the confidence came back.

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With WVU fighting for an at-large bid, the Mountaineers' RPI (46 after the win) is suddenly under scrutiny, especially when compared to the RPIs of mid-majors such as Southern Illinois, Pacific, Holy Cross and Wichita State. Beilein, as befits his slightly different look on many subjects, thinks one aspect of the new formula might help his team.

"I don't know all about the new RPI, but I'm just glad they are favoring teams that win away from home. That's such a good parameter to judge how good a team is. We've done what they've asked us to do, and now we need to finish strong."

"I think the four through six teams [in a league] need to go on the road and play mid-majors on the road to prove they can do it. You can't sit at home and say ‘we beat some Big East teams' and think you deserve to be in there. You can't do that playing guarantee [games].

WVU has six road wins on the season, including victories over LSU, N.C. State and Pitt.

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When asked if he regrets not starting Kevin Pittsnogle earlier in the year, Beilein responded with emphasis.

"Not at all," he said strongly. "D'or has been invited to Portsmouth (for the NBA predraft camp), and he can play. We beat some good teams playing one big guy and two jumping jack forwards. We have to think about what is the best for us to rebound the best, defend the best and score the best, so I don't think about that for a second.

Kevin was waiting for an opportunity to play, because D'or was playing well. It's now to the point where he's playing with a lot of confidence. His ability to score has opened up a lot of things for a lot of people. He got a chance and he proved himself. But don't forget his role in those first ten games was tremendous, too. He was scoring almost like he was now coming off the bench. When we hit that January problem, Kevin couldn't make a shot."

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Beilein on players' happiness levels when not playing as much as they would like: "I would hope none of our players would be happy not playing. I don't expect them to be happy playing just 15 minutes a game. They should all want to play 30 minutes."

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