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The losing streak is over — now what?

28 days later and West Virginia’s seven-game losing streak is officially over — but the road that lies ahead puts many question marks and presents many opportunities for the Mountaineers. 

On Tuesday evening, West Virginia won their first game since Jan. 11, defeating Iowa State 79-63. That 16-point victory had a wire-to-wire victory, showing their potential, and showing how good this team can be when they play to their potential. 

The return of Taz Sherman was a good thing, letting the offense who made just four shots in the entire second half last Saturday breathe a sigh of relief. That same offense shot 50% from the field, making 10 three-pointers in the process as well as going 25-for-29 from the free throw line. 

Sherman’s return was felt almost immediately, with Sherman hitting two free throws and a three-pointer within the first five minutes of play. Sherman would finish with 16 points, shooting 40% from the field, while going 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. 

I think it was just a huge shot in the arm for everybody. We didn’t really do a lot with his cardio and that was a concern,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “Doctor said he was good to go and their concern too was his cardio. I thought he gave it a lot. He was smart enough when he was tired to say ‘hey I need out for a while.’ If we can get his cardio back to where it was, we should be alright again.”

The Mountaineers turned the ball over 20 times against the Cyclones, leading to 16 Cyclone points. If not for the turnovers, Iowa State would not have been in the game late. 

“They want to continue to play. I think it’s hit them, how the situation without a few more wins, it was pretty dire. I’m glad they’re happy,” Huggins said of his team. “I wish they wouldn’t have thrown it away so much; we’d be happier.”

Looking ahead, the Mountaineers face two games on the road against teams they had already beaten in conference. West Virginia travels to face Oklahoma State on Saturday, before having a quick turnaround when facing Kansas State on Monday. 

Currently, West Virginia is a fringe team in most bracketology updates. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi does not have West Virginia in his 68 team field. CBS Sports has West Virginia as one of their “first four out,” meaning they are not in the tournament. USA Today’s bracketology has the Mountaineers being one of the “last four in,” playing Creighton in a first four game. 

All of this means one thing however and that is West Virginia is currently a fringe tournament team. lists West Virginia as an almost lock to make the tournament if they eclipse the 17 win mark. The website gives West Virginia an 87.2% chance to make the tournament if they get to 17 wins, and they give the Mountaineers a 98.7% chance if they get to 18 wins. 

Sitting at a 14-9 record right now, this means West Virginia’s magic number is four games. Win four games by Mar. 13, and West Virginia should make their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. 

Needing four wins to secure a spot in the postseason, the next question is where do these wins come from. 

West Virginia has eight games remaining — three of which will be played at the WVU Coliseum. 

The next two games are arguably the most important: on the road against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. These two teams’ combined record in conference is 8-14, giving West Virginia the opportunity to steal a road game. 

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) gives West Virginia a 31.7% chance to beat the Cowboys on Saturday, while giving them a 40.8% chance to defeat Kansas State on Monday. 

ESPN’s BPI favors the Mountaineers in only one game the rest of the season — a 71.4% chance to beat TCU at home on Mar. 5. Ken Pomeroy who is the founder of, the Mountaineers are currently the 54th best team in the country, while the Mountaineers are only projected to win one more game as well — again their home finale against TCU. 

KenPom predicts the Mountaineers will lose seven of their final eight games, and lose all seven of those games by six or less points — meaning if a couple things break West Virginia’s way, the Mountaineers can pick up a victory. 

For now, West Virginia can only go one game at a time, but finding a way to find four more wins, whether across the regular season or the Big 12 Tournament would almost guarantee the Mountaineers are playing well into March.  

Photo by Dale Sparks, All-Pro Photography

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