Missouri Win Resonates Both Short- and Long-Term
West Virginia’s comeback win over Missouri on late Sunday night was a nice salve to a tough football weekend, but the benefits of that game could extend far beyond a single tick in the win column.
First, it showed the still-learning Mountaineer team that with an effective press, no game is going to be over until the final minute. That’s something that every competitor should know, but being involved in a comeback and seeing how continuing effort can pay off can resonate far deeper, and last longer, than words from a coaching staff, or even from single leaders.
The win, fueled by senior guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, could also be further spurs to the final season of the duo that has appeared in more game than any other active guard pairing in the nation. Carter’s dedication and work are unquestioned, so it wasn’t like he needed any reinforcement, but he received it just the same. Miles, who has had a couple of dips along the way in terms of effort and commitment, has seen a renewed dedication pay off again, and maybe that puts him on a path to even more consistency.
For the younger players on the team, this lesson could take several forms. Wesley Harris, with nine points and ten rebounds, has to know now that he can produce against top-tier teams. Beetle Bolden had his normal shooting contribution, but also participated in WVU’s late defensive flurry, as did Chase Harler. (The foul call on Harler in the late going might have been the biggest phantom occurrence since the Muhammad Ali “punch” that knocked out Sonny Liston.) Teddy Allen continues to get validation for his creative offensive play. Even Sagaba Konate, who played little after staying in foul trouble, got another lesson about keeping his cool after a technical foul removed him from the game.
On a longer term level, the returns might be even greater. Missouri was a top five RPI team coming into the game, and while they probably won’t be as lofty come tournament time, the Tigers do look like a squad that could be in the NCAA Tournament. This win, from a metrics standpoint, could be very big for West Virginia down the road when at-large bids to the Big Dance are made. There are obviously a number of additional chances to come for such victories, but getting this one, with Virginia and Kentucky also remaining on the non-conference slate, is huge. The Mountaineers don’t have the pressure of worrying about being shut out in their biggest non-league RPI games, and have a reasonable shot at a 2-2 mark in those games, as both the Cavaliers and Wildcats visit the Coliseum.
The victory also pushed West Virginia up to 20th in the RPI as of Monday morning, and although that metric will take a hit with games upcoming against NJIT, Pitt, Coppin State and Fordham, there’s enough boost from the Missouri game to help overcome that. (It also doesn’t hurt that Texas A&M is #1 in the RPI right now.)
Granted, WVU can’t feel like it has arrived. That’s not among the lessons it needs to take from the win. There are still numerous items to be worked on (maybe more of that 1-3-1 defense?) and many long improvement strides for most of the players to make. This win, though, has a buoying effect, just as it did for those fans who were able to stick it out past midnight in the Eastern Time Zone to witness it. It might just be one of the games we look back on in March as a turning point in the season.