To some, being ranked in the AP Top 25 after having played only two conference games is meaningless. For West Virginia, it means an opportunity to prove people wrong.
This season in college basketball only nine teams have more wins than West Virginia, and six of those teams are ranked inside of the AP Top 25. The Mountaineers have received votes in each of the past five weeks, but have not been able to crack the top 25. Now with a tough stretch of schedule coming up, West Virginia is ready to prove everyone wrong.
While being ranked in January might not seem like a big deal, to West Virginia’s squad who has only two losses on the year, it is. After West Virginia’s 70-60 win over Oklahoma State on Tuesday, Gabe Osabuohien embraced what is upcoming for the Mountaineers.
“Opportunity. We haven’t been ranked in the top 25 all year, opportunity,” Osabuohien said.
Whether they like it or not, that opportunity has arrived. The name of the opportunity: the Big 12 conference. West Virginia’s next three games come against the current No. 1, No. 9, and No. 19 teams in the country. Two of those games are on the road and the No. 19 team just beat the No. 1 team on the road on Tuesday.
After those three games, West Virginia gets a “break” when they play the team which is ranked No. 26 in receiving votes. Out of their next eight games, seven of the eight come against teams ranked in the top 35 of the NET Rankings.
The first part of that opportunity comes Saturday, when West Virginia travels to Kansas. The Mountaineers have never beaten the Jayhawks on the road and will look to do so against a Kansas team who just barely beat Iowa State on Tuesday. Kansas turned the ball over 16 times against the Cyclones on Tuesday. If West Virginia can replicate that, they will certainly give themselves a chance to stay in the game.
After Saturday, West Virginia hosts No. 1 Baylor on Tuesday. Baylor lost to Texas Tech at home and following Baylor, the Mountaineers travel to Lubbock, Texas, to pay the Red Raiders a visit. After Texas Tech, the Mountaineers travel to Arkansas. Arkansas has not been playing their best as of late, they were ranked in the top 25 until just three weeks ago.
The Mountaineers then go on the road to face Baylor two days later, and then come back home to face Texas Tech. West Virginia follows those two games with a visit from the surprise of the league in No. 15 team in the country.
It is safe to say West Virginia deserves more recognition than they have gotten this season. It is also safe to say that “opportunity” Osabuohien wished for is knocking on West Virginia’s door.
Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography