KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Head coach Bob Huggins sounds like his West Virginia Mountaineers aren’t done playing basketball this season.
Huggins, who had just been ejected from the Mountaineers’ Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal loss to Kansas, said that he has every intention of pursuing postseason basketball of any kind.
“We’ve got more games to play,” Huggins said on Thursday. “We’ve got more games to play. We’ll get home and have them rest for a day or so and we will get back at it and get ready to bring home a trophy.”
The Mountaineers are highly unlikely to reach the NCAA Tournament with a losing record. In fact, the Mountaineers weren’t even on the tournament bubble according to ESPN.com going into the Big 12 Tournament.
That leaves the NIT and the College Basketball Invitational.
The Mountaineers are 16-17 right now, and it’s not out of the question that they could get into the National Invitational Tournament, despite being a game under-.500. The tournament no longer requires that a team have a record of .500 or better. As of Thursday night, the Mountaineers enjoyed a NET rating of 76. But, the Mountaineers have just two Quad 1 wins. It’s unclear how much the NIT would take that into account.
West Virginia last played in the NIT in 2014 under Huggins, when they lost in the first round to Georgetown. In 2007, the Mountaineers won the NIT. WVU has played in the NIT 16 times.
Even if the NIT won’t take the Mountaineers, there’s always the CBI.
Back in 2019, when the Mountaineers were well under-.500 and lost to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals, the program paid the $50,000 entry fee to play in that event. In fact, the Mountaineers were 14-20 at that point.
But, Huggins wanted to continue to coach his young team and his players wanted to continue to play. So, in the CBI the Mountaineers beat Grand Canyon in the first round before falling to Coastal Carolina. Both games were at home in Morgantown.
This year’s CBI will be in Daytona Beach, Fla. From March 19-23. Virginia Military has already accepted an invitation to play in the event.
Huggins used that CBI as a launching pad for his Mountaineers, who won 21 games in the COVID-19 shortened 2019-20 season and then won 19 games and reached the NCAA Tournament in 2020-21.
Perhaps he’s hoping to do the same thing this season?
“I think the question is do they (the players) want to play?” Huggins said. “I asked them that, and they want play. I enjoy coaching them.”
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.