MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The reigning Big East Tournament champion and one of the 2010 season's Final Four participants is 0-2 in the country's toughest conference.
With Saturday's 79-74 loss to Marquette, West Virginia is off to its worst conference start since 2002, when the team started 0-7.
As unlikely as that sort of a collapse appears, WVU knows recovery will not come easy. Life in the Big East, which entering the weekend's games had five teams in the top 10 and two more in the top 25, is as much about status as it is the standings.
"We know what's out there," said point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant. "Honestly, we're not afraid of anybody, but we need to come out and win a game. We can't go 0-3 to start. It's a tough conference. You can lose six games in a row in this conference and it's over."
The margin between good and bad is that narrow in the Big East. Nothing is to be taken for granted and the Mountaineers already know why.
WVU's loss to St. John's at home Dec. 29 was the first loss in 35 December home games and the first in 11 games against the Red Storm. WVU led three times, and, by just a point.
The Mountaineers were down eight in the second half before cutting the deficit to three and then fading by as many as 18.
WVU trailed 9-0 Saturday and by as many as 11 points in the first half before getting as close as a point and then entering halftime down just three. They took the lead in the second half and were up by as many as four points, but couldn't build that lead and only held it for two possessions.
In the first eight games of the season, WVU never trailed by more than nine points. It's trailed by double figures in three of the past four games - at Duquesne, against St. John's and at Marquette. The exception was a 74-63 win against Cleveland State where there were seven ties and nine lead changes.
"We need to control games and find a way to win," junior forward Kevin Jones said.
"We can't let games slip away like the last two games. That's not good and that's why we're in a hole right now. We're either going to keep sinking or we're going to find a way out of this."
WVU, DePaul, Providence and South Florida are the only 0-2 teams in the 16-team conference - hardly the type of company the Mountaineers want to keep. Not because the Blue Demons, Friars and Bulls have been among the league's worst performing teams in recent years, but because the conference doesn't give teams many chances to get on a roll.