Although it finished eighth in the Big 12 Conference, West Virginia generally is considered to make the NCAA Tournament field that will be announced on Sunday night.
The Mountaineers (19-13) can make it a sure bet Thursday afternoon by beating top-seeded and third-ranked Kansas (25-6) in the Big 12 quarterfinals in Kansas City, Mo.
West Virginia opened the conference tournament Wednesday night with a 78-62 thumping of ninth-seeded Texas Tech. The Mountaineers established a 43-35 halftime lead and then clamped down on the Red Raiders to put the game away.
The Mountaineers limited Texas Tech to 7-of-30 shooting from the field in the second half, enabling them to win comfortably despite hitting just 40.9 percent from the floor on the night. The result was the 934th career win for veteran coach Bob Huggins.
With the announcement of Jim Boeheim’s retirement Wednesday after 47 years at Syracuse, that makes Huggins the winningest active coach in Division I.
“It means I’m old,” the 69-year-old Huggins said. “No, I’m not old. I’m getting older.”
In Huggins’ case, don’t confuse old with gentler or milder. The ferocious competitor who took West Virginia and Cincinnati to Final Fours nearly 20 years apart showed a bit of that side after a 76-74 loss at Kansas on Feb. 25 when he said that he would blast the selection committee if it left the Mountaineers out of the 68-team field.
West Virginia has won three games in a row, including a road victory over Iowa State last week. The Mountaineers received a game-high 20 points Wednesday night from Kedrian Johnson and 18 from leading scorer Erik Stevenson, who also provided six assists.
Stevenson’s average of 15.6 points per game leads four West Virginia players in double figures.
Meanwhile, Kansas is coming off a rare clunker, a 75-59 loss Saturday in its regular-season finale at Texas. Jayhawks coach Bill Self mused that his team really wasn’t one on that day.
“I thought we played like we were on islands today,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty decent team, but we’re pretty good only when we really play together, play as a unit. And today, we played more as individuals. Because Texas did some good things to take us out of stuff.”
The Jayhawks made just 36.2 percent of their field-goal attempts, getting little from anyone besides Jalen Wilson’s 23 points and 10 rebounds. And the Big 12 Player of the Year wasn’t efficient, hitting just 7 of 18 attempts from the field.
Self said Wilson was a deserving choice for the top award in what has been considered the nation’s top conference by far.
“He’s shown me something each and every year that I may not have known he had in him,” Self said. “He’s taking it to a whole new level each and every year, and that makes it special.”
Wilson finished the regular season as the league’s top scorer (19.7) and rebounder (8.4).
–Field Level Media