No. 14 West Virginia faces tough week against 2 top-3 teams
No. 14 West Virginia has some marquee wins on its resume, a big reason the Mountaineers were among the top 16 teams in the NCAA’s preliminary rankings.
They have a huge chance to get two more in what will be one of the toughest weeks any team will face this season.
It starts Wednesday with a home game against No. 3 Kansas, the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA’s rankings. Three days later, the Mountaineers head to Baylor, No. 1 in the AP Top 25 and NCAA rankings.
That’s a tough slate for any team, particularly one that followed its No. 2 seeding by the NCAA with a disappointing lost to Oklahoma.
“We’re good enough to beat anybody in the country if we have the right frame of mind,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said after the 69-59 loss on Saturday.
The Mountaineers (18-5, 6-4 Big 12) have proven it at times this season.
West Virginia beat Wichita State in Mexico, knocked off then-No. 2 Ohio State in Cleveland and No. 24 Texas Tech in Morgantown. But the Mountaineers also have a 16-point loss to Kansas State, a rematch loss to Texas Tech and had Saturday’s clunker against Oklahoma.
Huggins said he could see the letdown coming when the Moutaineers coasted late in their 76-61 win over Iowa State the game before.
“I just know that the guys we have depended on all year are not the same dudes,””Huggins said. They are not the same people.”
The Mountaineers at least has experience with tough weeks.
According to Sportradar, West Virginia is the only team this season to play consecutive games against top-3 teams. The Mountaineers beat No. 2 Ohio State 67-59 on Dec. 29 and lost to No. 3 Kansas 60-53 on Jan. 4.
The Pac-12 still has six teams within two games of the conference lead with three weeks left in the regular season.
Thursday’s game between No. 16 and No. 17 Oregon could muddle it even more or ().
The Buffaloes lead the conference at 8-3 after beating California and Utah last week. The Ducks are a half-game back at 7-4 following a 10-point loss to rival Oregon State last week.
The game also will feature two of the conference’s best point guards: Oregon’s Payton Pritchard and Colorado’s McKinley Wright.
Colorado plays Oregon State on Saturday and the Ducks face Utah on Sunday.
No. 4 San Diego State (24-0, 13-0 Mountain West) remains Division I’s lone undefeated team after beating Air Force by 15 last week.
To keep it that way after this week, the Aztecs will have to get through New Mexico and Boise State.
San Diego State won by 18 at New Mexico in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 29 and cruised over the Broncos 18 at home on Jan. 11.
Get through those and the Aztecs’ bid to finish the regular season undefeated will come down to games against UNLV, Colorado State and Nevada.
BIG EAST BATTLES
No. 10 Seton Hall leads the Big East by three games at 10-1. This week could be the last chance for any team to catch the Pirates.
Seton Hall has a tough game on Wednesday, when it hosts No. 23 Creighton, one of three teams tied for second at 7-4. The Pirates also play at Providence on Saturday.
The other two 7-4 teams face each other on Wednesday, when No. 15 Villanova hosts No. 18 Creighton. The Wildcats also face Tempe on Sunday and the Bluejays host DePaul on Saturday.
If Seton Hall wins both games, it will likely be a lock for the Big East title. Lose even one, the conference race could get interesting down the stretch.