The college basketball year has officially entered March Madness. With the regular season now complete, we’re just a week away from the start of the NCAA Tournament.
First, teams must complete their conference tournaments, some of which have already gotten underway.
One of the best parts of the sport is the potential for any team to earn their conference’s automatic bid into the Big Dance. Regardless of your prior performance or record, every conference tournament champion gets a spot in the actual tourney.
While unlikely, this could prove to be helpful for the WVU Mountaineers this year. Despite finishing last in the Big 12 with a 4-14 record, head coach Bob Huggins and his squad can make an incredible run and qualify for the field still.
To do so, WVU will need four victories in as many days this week. Its path through the tournament is as hard as it gets, with top-seeded Kansas potentially up next.
First, the Mountaineers face Kansas State in the only matchup of the first round on Wednesday night.
Let’s take a closer look at WVU’s tilt, along with the rest of the odds for the Big 12 tournament listed at West Virginia sportsbooks.
WVU basketball vs. Kansas State preview
The Mountaineers had a tough season overall; however, they did end it on a positive note. Their six-point win on Saturday over TCU snapped their seven-game losing streak.
Unfortunately, this was WVU’s second losing streak of that length since January.
Things looked promising at one point this year. The team sat at 13-2 overall following its victory against Oklahoma State on Jan. 11.
Since then, the Mountaineers are just 2-14. Both triumphs came against teams that finished the Big 12 schedule with a losing record, Iowa State and TCU.
Even though it’s looking like a year to forget, there’s still time to make some noise this March Madness.
WVU’s first contest against the Wildcats is an interesting one. The two sides split their regular-season meetings, with both extremely tight.
The Mountaineers took the first one on Jan. 8 at home in Morgantown. They earned the win by three but certainly didn’t cover the spread at -9.
Kansas State returned the favor last month, beating WVU by a final of 78-73. Interestingly, WV sportsbooks adjusted perfectly for the second tilt. It had KSU laying -3.5 in the point spread, which it narrowly covered.
There isn’t a lineup for this opening game just yet, but bettors in the Mountain State can expect it to land around only a few points. Kansas State won two more conference games than WVU but had one fewer W overall.
To take the rubber match, the Mountaineers need one of their main scorers hitting shots consistently.
Sean McNeil poured in 26 points the first time around, while Taz Sherman scored 23 in the more recent defeat. The two seniors led WVU in the majority of games, with Sherman averaging 18 points and McNeil around 12.
KSU counters with three players in double digits for the season, led by guard Nijel Pack.
As noted, whoever advances gets the privilege of playing Kansas in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Big 12 tournament odds at WV sportsbooks
The Jayhawks received the No. 1 spot in the conference yet again, but they aren’t the lone favorite in this event. They share that role with Baylor, who’s also listed at +200 to win the Big 12 tournament according to DraftKings WV.
The two heavyweights also split their season series, both victorious at home by at least 10 points. They feature identical conference records at 14-4, with Baylor having a one-game edge in their overall marks.
The AP poll shows Baylor sitting in the No. 3 spot, whereas Kansas occupies No. 6.
At the moment, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects each as a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. He does mention that it’s unlikely both will stay there unless there are some upsets in other conferences.
The Big 12 includes several other capable contenders, too.
Texas Tech is among the elite in the country and finds itself ranked No. 14 to close out the regular season. DraftKings gives the Red Raiders odds of +340 to take the Big 12 tourney.
Another Texas squad, the Longhorns, is right behind them. They’re shown at +550 to lift the hardware in Kansas City.
Lunardi’s bracket has Texas Tech as a No. 3, compared to Texas on the No. 5 line.
After that, there’s a significant drop-off in the odds. The online sportsbook displays the following:
- TCU +2000
- Oklahoma +3000
- Iowa State +3500
- West Virginia +7000
- Kansas State +8000
Winning the entire conference tournament is crucial for seeding, but there are other ways to improve your position. This time of year, even one more victory can go a long way.
This may hold for TCU and Iowa State. They’re in the Big Dance at the No. 8 and No. 9 spots, respectively, in ESPN’s latest update.
If TCU can topple Texas, or if the Cyclones can outlast Texas Tech, then either may move up a notch or two.
The Big 12 tournament begins with WVU’s game on Wednesday night and concludes with the title matchup on Saturday at 6 p.m. EST.