Erik Stevenson: ‘We’re Going to Get Our Name Called on Sunday’
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Until the NCAA Tournament announces its 68-team field, we won’t know for sure if West Virginia will make it to March Madness or not.
But guard Erik Stevenson has no doubt, even after the Mountaineers’ 78-61 loss to Kansas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
“We’re going to get our named called on Sunday,” Stevenson said. “Just a matter of when, where and who we play.”
The good people at ESPN would appear to agree that West Virginia (19-14) are NCAA Tournament bound. Entering the Kansas game, the Mountaineers were not on the bubble and were seeded No. 9 by ESPN’s resident bracketologist, Joe Lunardi. The Mountaineers would face Illinois in the first round.
You never know until the committee calls a team’s name, but the stars are definitely aligned.
The Mountaineers won seven league games, including three of their final four. In the past five non-COVID seasons, seven league wins is the minimum a Big 12 teams has won and reached the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa State did it last year and reached the Sweet 16. Oklahoma did it pre-COVID.
So there is precedent for the committee to take a team like West Virginia, which has a high NCAA NET rating (it was 19 going into Thursday’s game) even if its conference record is below .500.
If anything, Stevenson said the Mountaineers got good practice for the NCAA Tournament in its two games at T-Mobile Arena.
“We’re playing at a neutral site, which is gonna be like the tournament,” Stevenson said. “We had a good crowd today. I was robbed of being in the tournament (in 2020) so I can’t say I have tournament experience. But you’re playing a really good team like that, there’s really good teams like that in the tournament every game you play.”
Huggins admitted his team was tired on Thursday, the result of a short turnaround from Wednesday night’s win and the Mountaineers’ push to try and get in the tournament.
So the Mountaineers will get some rest between now and next week. Assuming the Mountaineers are selected, Huggins wants them to “forget” what happened on Thursday.
“This wasn’t the team I had all year,” Huggins said of Thursday’s performance. “I mean we came out with no enthusiasm, no pep in our step. It was — it was a bad game. It was a bad game from where I was watching it.”
March Madness has a way of injecting life into a team. The Mountaineers hope to find out next week.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard