Dreams of Sweet 16 appearances (like WVU's three in the past four seasons) abound across the nation. The Mountaineers, (16-8, 5-6) are aiming to go over the 20 win mark to gain what they believe to be an ensured bid to the tournament.
"We're going to try and finish out the last couple of games with a good record," said junior forward Wellington Smith. "We are going to try and go into the Big East tournament and try and do something spectacular. We just need to win probably like five more games in order to get to the tournament. The last couple of games are going to be tough but we're used to it and we're up to the challenge."
The Mountaineers face No. 13 Villanova on Friday and still have difficult opponents like Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and No. 5 Louisville to face, which means the Mountaineers will likely have to pull an upset or two to get those final few victories under their belt and get not only an NCAA bid, but a respectable seed.
"(Against Villanova) we have to win. All of the games we should have won –we have it in our mind that we have to win. We don't feel like there is room for a slip up," admitted Smith.
West Virginia is hoping that even if it does just maintain its current position that its RPI will be good enough to get it into the Big Dance. WVU has maintained a spot in the top 20 of that ranking for most of the year, and its strength of schedule component has been Top Ten throughout the season. However, with a few teams left to play from the bottom of the league, that might not hold true through the end of the season.
"Coach Huggins has talked about how our RPI is good now but we are playing in the bottom of tier of the Big East and it could get a little bit worse. We will have to see what happens," said Smith.
Although the Mountaineers have suffered due to their difficult schedule, they are hoping that playing top ranked teams like UConn, Marquette, and Pitt and Louisville twice each will help. That schedule has taken a toll on the Mountaineers to date, but it's important now that the only upsets come at the hands of the Mountaineers, and not to them.
"We play a game every couple of days and it's rough," said Smith. "It's hard to do especially the way we practice and the way we play every game. We're expected to do so and we do it to the best of our ability. I think we do a pretty good job but it's grueling."
Only time will tell to see if the Mountaineers get to post season play beyond the Big East tournament but the journey to the big dance would be eased greatly with a victory on Friday against the Wildcats.