At one point a near-lock to wrap up a double-bye in the upcoming Big East Tournament, West Virginia finds itself just a game ahead of Louisville and Marquette in the race for one of those final two slots. They host a Georgetown squad that's in serious need of some positive momentum coming off of a double-digit home loss to Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon. The formula for the Hoyas is a rather simple one: as Chris Wright goes so do the Hoyas.
A funny thing happened on the way to Connecticut's latest upset of a top-tier Big East team Monday night.
Bob Huggins, coach of the visiting No. 7 West Virginia Mountaineers, got two technical fouls and was automatically ejected.
In terms of NCAA Tournament importance there's really only one game you need to watch on Monday night. UConn hosts West Virginia with the opportunity to pick up one more resume-building victory at their fingertips. Just one week ago Jim Calhoun's team was given up for dead by many as a result of their loss to Cincinnati, a performance that Coach Calhoun described as "embarrassing".
A pair of games between ranked teams take center stage on Monday night, with Villanova's trip to Morgantown preceding Kansas taking on Texas in Austin. Jay Wright's team will look to bounce back from their disappointing showing at Georgetown on Saturday and they're going to need to hit the glass with a vengeance in order to beat the Mountaineers. West Virginia averages 15.6 offensive rebounds per game, good for third in the Big East. Of the 795 rebounding opportunities on Mountaineer shots Bob Huggins' team grabs the board 43.3% of the time, tops in the conference.
There are some big games on the schedule Saturday, with the biggest possibly being Ohio State visiting West Virginia in a non-conference game that could have major implications come March in regards to seeding. Outside of the Buckeyes' Dallas Lauderdale you won't see big men on the floor, with both teams possessing a number of versatile players in the 6-5 to 6-9 range. The two best players on the floor: Ohio State's Evan Turner and West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler, both of whom are looked to as catalysts of their team's offense.
One of the biggest games of the day tips at high noon in Morgantown when West Virginia hosts Syracuse in a matchup of Top 10 teams. Both are coming off of routine victories over teams expected to finish in the bottom portion of the Big East standings, avoiding the pitfall of looking past the task at hand. The Orange are one of the nation's best offensive teams, leading the country in field goal percentage and assists per game. Wesley Johnson received a good deal of praise for their early start but truth be told Jim Boeheim's got weapons throughout the rotation.
Sandwiched in between an instant classic of a league opener at Seton Hall and a showdown on New Year's Day at Purdue maybe a letdown of sorts was expected from West Virginia. Not to mention the presence of an underdog in Marquette looking to serve notice that they'll be better than the 12th-place spot predicted by the Big East's coaches and it wouldn't have been a huge shock if the Mountaineers fell.
Nine months removed from becoming the first conference to earn three #1 seeds in a NCAA Tournament, the Big East is looking to break its own record and send as many as nine teams to the Dance come March.
Through November, the conference has three teams ranked in the top 10, with seven ranked teams overall and sporting a 79-12 record.
Things didn't look too good for Florida State at the half of the Old Spice Classic title game against Marquette, going into the locker room down 30-18 after having shot just 29.6% from the field with more turnovers (13) than field goals (8). But they were able to fight back thanks to a change in strategy from Leonard Hamilton, who went smaller to better match the quickness of the Golden Eagles. The end result: Florida State winning the game on a Solomon Alabi baseline jumper with 11.9 seconds left in the game to provide the 57-56 final.