In the Big East, losses are going to occur, and putting away a loss to focus on the next game is something every team has to do. For the Mountaineers, it's all part of one of the toughest schedules in the country, currently rated as the 14th hardest, and sure to rise as the Big East season plays out.
"Conference play has been the toughest schedule I've played since I've been here," admitted senior guard Alex Ruoff.
At the beginning of West Virginia's most difficult schedule stretch – the Georgetown game on January 22nd – seven of the next nine foes held spots in the Top 25 at some point during the year. And although the Mountaineers dominated the Hoyas, they have struggled against the other ranked teams that they have faced thus far. Louisville and Syracuse both held off determined rallies to gain wins, and Pitt used a second half run to get a win at the WVU Coliseum. Those losses didn't keep WVU down, but the roller coaster nature of the current season has been a difficult one to deal with at times. The ability to put away the previous game and concentrate on the next is something that good teams develop – another exhibition of mental toughness – and its one that's vital to survival in the Big East.
Speaking before the Providence game, junior forward Da'Sean Butler noted that the Mountaineers have to win games against unranked foes in order to move up in the league. Also involved was the necessity of breaking a two-game losing skid.
"They're a very good team," he said. "Honestly, this is a game that we really need to win. We need to go and take care of business and pull it out at home."
West Virginia was able to do just that, but now faces a return date against the Panthers on ESPN's Big Monday feature contest at 7:00 PM
"I enjoy playing at the (Petersen Event Center.) Last year, we should have won it but we made mistakes toward the end of the game," said Ruoff. "It's a great atmosphere. They're usually good year in and year out and it's usually a good win if you can get one out of there."
From there on out, the schedule does ease a bit, but still remaining are games against ranked foes Villanova and Louisville, as well as wounded but still-dangerous Notre Dame and a road trip for an emotion-fraught contest at Cincinnati. WVU hopes to build off the Providence win and get on a roll heading into the Big East tournament, but it's not likely that the Mountaineers (or any other league team) will go through the rest of its schedule unscathed. How each team handles losses will be an important factor in determining its league fate.