CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Christmas Day activities at this sports editor's household can be broken down into three parts: watch toddler open gifts, consume food, nap. As a relative newcomer to fatherhood, that is certainly the order of importance.
College basketball's three segments - non-conference, conference and tournament play - are not in order of significance.
That is especially true for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers (7-5) wrap up their first third of the men's hoops season Sunday when they play William & Mary (6-4) in a non-conference game at the Charleston Civic Center (3 p.m., ROOT). The Tribe, picked to finish fifth in the 10-team Colonial Athletic Association, represents the eighth Mountaineers' opponent with an RPI of 201 or worse.
WVU is perfect in seven games against teams with an RPI rank between No. 201 and No. 351. The Mountaineers are winless in five games against teams in the top 100.
If West Virginia takes care of business at the Civic Center, where it has won four straight and 10 of its last 11, Coach Bob Huggins' group will enter the rigors of Big 12 competition with neither a signature victory nor an unsightly blemish.
It is never too early to start wondering how that'll affect the Mountaineers' postseason plans ... whether they are NCAA tournament aspirants or destined for a pay-for-play bracket or neither. WVU, which last season finished 13-19 and lost all four of its games in March, surely doesn't want to stay home and watch the madness of that month again.
After all, Huggins has been to 20 NCAA tournaments in 32 seasons, including 19 of the last 21. The last time he didn't reach the Big Dance in consecutive seasons happened during his first two years at Cincinnati, 1990 and '91. The last time his teams failed to reach any kind of postseason in consecutive years came during his last two seasons at Akron, 1988 and '89.
Even with a roster devoid of a senior, Huggins didn't rebuild simply with an eye toward the 2014-15 season. This is a team that needs postseason experience. Only junior Gary Browne played in WVU's most recent trip to NCAA tournament, a 77-54 loss to Gonzaga on March 15, 2012.
So far this season the Mountaineers have lost to Wisconsin (No. 1 in the RPI), Gonzaga (No. 18), Missouri (No. 24), Virginia Tech (No. 93) and Purdue (No. 95) - teams with a combined record of 49-10. WVU's five losses (all single digit defeats) came by a total of 28 points, an average of 5.6 points per loss.