What’s on the line for WVU hoops in the final week of the regular season?

WVU Basketball

Mountaineers can solidify seed in conference, national tournament with wins in last three games

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Jordan McCabe thinks he’s learned a good life lesson: listen to people who know what they’re talking about, including Bob Huggins. 

That’s coming in handy, McCabe thinks, as the NCAA Tournament approaches and the experts churn out their latest bracket predictions. 

“I’m not smart, but I listen to smart people and try to just regurgitate what they say,” the junior guard said Saturday after West Virginia beat Kansas State. “I happen to be around Huggs, who always says he’s the smartest man in the room, so I just listen to what he’s saying about what [Joe] Lunardi’s saying or the committee or whatever.” 

Based on what he’s hearing, McCabe thinks WVU still has a legitimate shot at a one-seed in the national field if it can win out in the regular season.

“Hypothetically, you assume we’d be in that conversation for what overall one-seed we would be,” McCabe said. “That’s our goal, and we don’t have to shy away from that.” 

So what are the experts saying right now? Following Saturday’s college basketball action, West Virginia is projected as a two-seed in the latest bracket predictions from ESPN and CBS Sports. To climb higher, or at least be in the conversation for one of the top four overall seeds, WVU would certainly need to win out in the regular season by beating Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State in its remaining three home games.

Of course, losing any of those games could put West Virginia’s seeding in jeopardy. Right now, ESPN projects Oklahoma as a three-seed and Kansas and Texas as four-seeds in the national field. Baylor remains a firm one-seed in that same projection. 

West Virginia also ranks No. 12 in the NCAA NET rankings through Saturday’s games.

With March about to begin, McCabe thinks WVU ought to be viewed as a national title contender. 

“Defensively, I think we’re just shoring up a few things that are Huggs’ philosophy. If we get that down, this is a national championship team,” McCabe said. “I don’t think anybody is shying away from that statement anymore. This is a top-10 team in the country, probably top-five.” 

As for conference tournament seeding, WVU has a clear path to the No. 2 seed. The Mountaineers could lock up a second-place finish in the Big 12 by winning two of their final three regular season games. West Virginia advanced to the conference title game as a two-seed in 2016 and 2017, falling in the final game on both occasions. 

WVU will also guarantee a first-round bye in the league tournament by winning one of its final three games. Any other seeding scenarios involving an 0-3 or 1-2 record in its final three contests will depend on other outcomes around the league. 

It also remains mathematically possible that WVU could clinch the top seed in the league tournament. That would require the Mountaineers to win out and for Baylor, which suffered its first loss of the season Saturday at Kansas, to lose its final three games. In this scenario, the Mountaineers would earn the Big 12’s No. 1 spot based on win percentage. 

West Virginia hosts Baylor Tuesday at 5 p.m. Selection Sunday is coming up March 14.

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