WVU also got some potential Big East seeding help Tuesday from Providence's win over Connecticut (17-12, 7-10), and depending on the rest of this Big East week, it could be DePaul-WVU again at noon Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Whatever happens in Tampa and New York, really, at least a 19-13 record should get the Mountaineers where they want to go.
West Virginia is 4-8 against the RPI top 50 and 8-10 against the top 100. Only one team in the RPI top 200, Vanderbilt, has played more than 18 games against top 100s.
The only teams in front of WVU in the RPI - No. 51 at tipoff Tuesday - with at least 18 of those top 100 foes are John Beilein-coached Michigan (RPI of 14), Vandy (23) and Connecticut (30). Vandy played its 19th top 100 team Tuesday, hosting Florida. UConn and Michigan have played 18.
As I pointed out in this space last week, it comes back to what NCAA selection committee chair Jeff Hathaway (the former UConn athletic director and a Big East consultant) said, generically speaking, on a media conference call two weeks ago:
"Who did they play, where did they play them, and how did they do? There is no magic number on conference wins ... There's no magic number (of wins) in any way, shape or form."
The expansion of the NCAA bracket last season by three teams, to 68, opened the door for a lot of teams from power conferences that - via more than the so-called "eyeball test" - looked like this season's Mountaineers.
Michigan State, Penn State, Southern Cal and Tennessee were 19-14 on Selection Sunday last season and got bids. So did a 20-14 Marquette, a 19-13 Illinois and 20-13 Michigan.
Of those aforementioned 2010-11 teams, only the Vols and Nittany Lions had strength of schedule numbers superior to the rank of 10 that WVU took the floor with Tuesday.
Michigan State (45), Illinois (47), Michigan (50) were in the same RPI vicinity as these Mountaineers. Marquette was at 64. Southern Cal was a real stretch - as Trojans-conquering VCU proved in the initial "First Four" in Dayton - with a 67 RPI.
Winning at surprising and patient USF won't be easy for WVU, especially since the Bulls - 18-11, 11-5 visiting Louisville tonight - will be just as intent in playing for an NCAA bid as the Mountaineers.
In fact, it may be more of an NCAA play-in game for USF than for WVU, which with a win could land a Big East tournament opener rematch with DePaul.
"Well, sure," Purnell said when asked if the Mountaineers were an NCAA Tournament team. "There's no question they're an NCAA Tournament team. They're in the Big East. They've gone through the meat grinder.
"They've won 8-9 ballgames in the Big East and the ones they've lost, they haven't lost to weak sisters. This is an excellent league and if you can survive it and do pretty well, you certainly are in the top 68 teams in the country."
Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at ja...@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.