MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — March is still a long way away, but the latest NCAA Tournament projections favor WVU men’s basketball, despite the team’s recent losing streak to open Big 12 play.
As of Friday morning, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has WVU slotted as one of the “last four in.” Lunardi’s projection tabs the Mountaineers as a No. 11 seed in a First Four and places them in a First Four matchup with Ohio State.
In a way, this projection is proof of how valuable wins are in the Big 12 Conference. A previous projection from ESPN’s bracket expert omitted the Mountaineers. West Virginia’s standing improved thanks to just one win, which came Wednesday over No. 14 TCU, snapping a five-game skid.
As a whole, the Big 12 also continues to dominate in the NET, the evaluation metric that’s weighed heavily during the tournament selection process. As of Thursday, the average NET ranking for the conference was 28.4, nearly twice as low as the Big Ten’s 55.6, which represents the next lowest average.
Currently, West Virginia is No. 24 in the NET. It ranked in the top 10 during nonconference play. Only five Big 12 teams — Kansas, Iowa State, Texas, Kansas State and Baylor — hold a better NET ranking this week.
In the latest tournament projection from ESPN, eight of the 10 Big 12 teams make the NCAA Tournament, with only Oklahoma State and Texas Tech missing out on the field of 68. The Cowboys are listed in the final spot of the “next four out” category.
WVU will gun for another ranked win Saturday when it hosts No. 7 Texas. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum.