I’m not sure there was a team in the country that needed a win as badly as West Virginia did on Thursday night.
Let’s ignore, for a second, that the Mountaineers were playing Pitt — their Backyard Brawl rivals — for the last time as Big East counterparts. West Virginia came into this game having lost five of their last six games, the lone win coming against Providence in overtime. That’s not exactly the way to prove to the nation that you’re the second-best team in the Big East, which is what some folks were speculating at the time.
This was more than the simple fact that West Virginia won, however, its how they did it. The ‘Eers simply ran away from the Panthers in the second half, embarrassing Jamie Dixon’s club on their home court with a 66-48 win. Kevin Jones, who should be the favorite to win the Big East Player of the Year award, finished with 16 points, 13 boards, three assists and two blocks while Deniz Kilicli, who is slowly becoming a consistently difficult matchup on the block, added 14 points. Truck Bryant came off the bench but finished with 15 points, seven boards (six offensive) and four steals.
Should West Virginia make the NCAA Tournament — which I expect them to do, although they would be doing themselves a huge favor by winning at Notre Dame or against Marquette — they are going to be an interesting team to keep an eye on. They aren’t very deep, which makes foul trouble and some inconsistency with their stars an issue. But they are as rugged as you would expect any team coached by Bob Huggins to be, they attack the offensive glass and they have a couple of options in the back court that are capable of going off for 25 points.
The ‘Eers still have some work to do before they’ve locked up a bid, but should they play their way into the dance, WVU is going to be a tough out regardless of their matchup.