Coach Huggins Defends Mountaineers For 2023 NCAA Tournament Inclusion

Written By Fairway Jay on March 1, 2023 - Last Updated on March 27, 2023
West Virginia Sports Betting 2023 March Madness

The West Virginia Mountaineers college basketball team earned a big win Monday at Iowa State, keeping their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. A Mountaineers bid for the 2023 NCAA Tournament means more fan engagement and West Virginia sports betting on March Madness.

Monday’s win improved West Virginia to 17-13 overall and 6-11 in Big 12 play. If they are unable to pull off some upsets in next week’s Big 12 conference tournament, they can secure the automatic berth with a Big 12 conference tournament championship.

Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins defended his team’s position and any doubt following a narrow 76-74 loss to Big 12 leader Kansas.

“I tell our guys I don’t think we have anything to worry about, and I will blast their (tournament committee members) ass as far and as long as I can if they don’t let these guys in the tournament after years and years of ‘Play a competitive schedule. The best teams are the teams that play the best strength of schedule.’”

West Virginia Mountaineers record and NCAA Tournament schedule

Selection Sunday falls on March 12, ahead of March Madness starting on March 14 with the First Four play-in games. Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament is March 16 and 17, when 64 teams play down to the Round of 32 on March 18 and 19.

West Virginia hosts Kansas State on Saturday, March 4. The Mountaineers are averaging nearly 12,000 fans at home games, and more are expected for senior day and the final home game. That game tips off at 2 p.m. ET from WVU Coliseum. A win over the Wildcats would seemingly secure an NCAA Tournament at-large berth for the Mountaineers.

On Dec. 31, West Virginia played their Big 12 opener and lost to Kansas State 82-76 in overtime. Coach Huggins said “We gave this game away” after the Mountaineers blew a 14-point lead.

So ahead of senior day and the regular season finale against Kansas State, West Virginia is one of three “bubble teams” in the Big 12. They join a more desperate Texas Tech and Oklahoma State on the bubble. Oklahoma State plays at Texas Tech on March 4 — the final day of the regular season in the Big 12.

Mountaineers will be a small favorite in West Virginia sports betting

Various sources reported on West Virginia capturing a three-point road win at Iowa State. The win has value as a victory for West Virginia and also for what it prevented.

A loss against the Cyclones would have dropped the Mountaineers to 16-14, with five defeats in the last six outings. Instead, West Virginia won its first road game in over a month. And now they host Kansas State as a member of the “last four in” section of many brackets.

Keep in mind that no Big 12 basketball team has ever made the NCAA Tournament with a 6-12 conference record or worse. West Virginia enters Saturday’s contest 6-11. And the Mountaineers will be a small favorite over the Wildcats when the sportsbooks send out college basketball betting lines Friday night.

Kansas State is 10-6 in Big 12 play, with three straight wins ahead of their March 1 game vs Oklahoma and then March 4 at West Virginia.

The 2023 Big 12 tournament is set for March 8-11 at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City. West Virginia will play in the first round and likely as a No. 8 seed. Texas Tech is the most likely opponent ahead of the final regular season games.

West Virginia NCAA Tournament resume

Big 12 basketball has been as competitive as ever this season and the strongest conference in college basketball. And West Virginia has played the toughest schedule of any Big 12 team.

In nonconference, WVU played a gauntlet, getting wins over Florida, Auburn, and ACC-leading Pittsburgh. Losses were to Xavier and projected No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed Purdue.

The Mountaineers have four Quad 1 wins and rank in the Top 30 nationally in NET rankings. This is one of the top benchmarks used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Seven of the 10 Big 12 teams are ranked in the Top 30 of NET rankings.

As coach Huggins noted following the loss to Kansas last Saturday:

We have far and away — it’s not even close — the best strength of schedule in the country, no question. If that doesn’t mean something to the committee, shame on them. Not just that: I think if you look at our scores … we deserve to be in the tournament.”

Also, according to the strength of schedule rankings, the Mountaineers are ranked No. 5 in the country. And half of the Big 12 is ranked in the Top 10.

Ahead of Monday’s win over Iowa State, Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology had West Virginia as one of the “Last Four In” teams into the NCAA Tournament. With the victory against Iowa State, coach Huggins’ team likely solidified their spot in the Field of 68.

A win over Kansas State and/or a first-round victory in the Big 12 tournament will say even more as the Mountaineers earn an NCAA Tournament bid.

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