"An NIT bid would be great, considering that we came from the bottom last year," said Mountaineer guard Kate Bulger. "Coming off last year, just getting to the Big East tournament was our main goal.
"I think we'd have to have at least two more wins, but I really haven't thought about it a lot," head coach Mike Carey analyzed after the Providence win. "We've got some tough games left. We have to go to Notre Dame and Syracuse, and then we've got Connecticut, who's not very good, and then we have to go to the tournament. But whether we do or don't, I'm still very proud of what they've done."
The statement about UConn was made in jest, of course, and Carey well knows the tough road that WVU has in front of them to finish out the season. The Mountaineers have clinced a spot in the Big East tourney (just like the men, the bottom two teams don't go to the tournament), so that goal has been achieved. Getting a women's NIT bid, however, will be a much tougher task.
The "easiest" of those three is probably Syracuse, but the Orangewomen are still one game ahead of WVU in the conference standings and are 8-3 at home. The Mountaineers will be big underdogs to both the Irish and the Huskies.
One more win in any of WVU's four remaining games (three regular season plus the opening round Big East game) might put WVU on the bubble for the NIT, while two wins would likely wrap up a spot. WVU's opponent in the tournament has yet to be determined, but it's not likely to be a pushover, as the Mountaineers will probably finish somewhere between 7th and 10th in the conference.
WVU's RPI (yes, there's one for the women as well) currently stands at 124, but win or lose that number is sure to go up on on strength of schedule alone as the Mountaineers face the top two teams in the conference to wrap up the season.
One concern as the Mountaineers head into the homestretch is depth, which could lead to tired legs. WVU has been playing a short rotation all season.
"We're only playing five or six people," Carey said. "We struggle when we have to go to the bench a lot. But I'm very proud of the girls. They've worked hard. They've won 14 games this year, but I'd still like to win one or two more."
While Carey is quick to credit the team's work ethic, Bulger thinks the coaching staff has done a great job in keeping the team on the right track through the long season.
"You're going to get tired during the season, whether from injuries or all the travel, but the coaches have been great. They'll make practices a little different to keep the interest level up. They do a great job of getting us motivated."
Whtehr the Mountaineers are able to nab a postseason berth or not, there's no doubt that a successful foundation has been laid for the future. An NIT bid, however, would be another nice stepping stone on the road to that destination.