MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There comes a time in every season, whether it's at the end or the beginning of the end, when the reality is impossible to ignore and the inevitable is too much to overcome. It sounds like that moment may have come Saturday afternoon for West Virginia.
If the actions during an 88-75 loss to Baylor didn't illustrate the predicament the Mountaineers find themselves in late in a season that's suddenly heading in a very different direction than it was two weeks ago, than the words left no secret about what's happening inside the Coliseum.
After a week off, WVU was soundly outplayed inside, gave up another alarmingly high shooting percentage and lost for the third time in four games - and the losses are by 14, 17 and 13 points. Afterward, Bob Huggins didn't talk to his team about NCAA Tournament possibilities. He instead questioned their "commitment to excellence."
"If you go out and know your guy is going drive it right because he hasn't driven it left all year and you let him drive it right, that's not commitment," the Mountaineers coach said. "If you know your guy has to turn over his left shoulder because that's the only way he can turn and you continually let him do that, that's not commitment. When you're screaming after a timeout so they get where they're supposed to get to run a set, that's not commitment.
"We had a week. They all have iPads. They all have all the breakdowns and the breakdowns for the people they're going to guard. I'm not sure what they did. Maybe they played Spider on their iPads, but they sure as hell didn't watch tape."
In short, the Mountaineers (15-12, 7-7 Big 12) were beaten in the areas they've been beaten before and hoped to protect before a crowd of 11,834. The Bears (18-9, 6-8) won a fourth straight game by outscoring WVU by 26 points in the paint and having five players score in double figures on the way to 54.2 percent shooting.
In its last three losses to Kansas, Texas and the Bears, WVU has been outscored 130-44 in the paint (46-18, 46-14 and 38-12). It's allowed 54.9, 57.9 and 54.2 percent shooting and 65 baskets in the paint. The Mountaineers have shot 39.6, 39.7 and 40 percent and made 64 total baskets.
An at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament will require a lot of work in the final four games or the Big 12 Tournament - or both - but the Mountaineers have be aware of the .500 mark, too.
Of the last 256 NIT teams, 253 were at least two games above .500.
"We all want to sit here and talk about how we want to do this and we want to be that, but we're not going to do anything until we're committed," Huggins said. "We think we're committed. We're not committed."
WVU was in position for a top-four finish in the Big 12 standings after beating Iowa State Feb. 10, but is now in sixth place with two road games and two home games remaining. A top-six finish gives a team a pass into the second round of the conference tournament, but the Mountaineers must get back to where they were two weeks ago, when Huggins said his team was progressing at the ideal time.
"I never said we were progressing defensively," he said. "We're not ever going to get back to where we were until we start guarding again."
Baylor's shooting percentage was only the fourth-best against WVU this season and the seventh time an opponent has been at or above 50 percent.