Baseball, WVU Sports

WVU’s fate for the NCAA tournament will be unveiled Monday

MORGANTOWN — It will be an uneasy 24 hours, according to WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey.

When your fate in playing in the NCAA tournament is no longer in your hands and relies on a selection committee to like your resumé over someone else’s, “I won’t go to bed at night feeling all that great about it until I see the Mountaineers’ name pop up on the screen.”

That will or won’t happen at noon Monday, as the 64 teams for the NCAA tournament are unveiled during the noon selection show (ESPN2).

WVU (33-22) finds itself in this wait-and-see position after not strengthening its case in the Big 12 tournament.

The No. 4 seed, WVU went 0-2 with losses against No. 9-seed TCU and No. 6-seed Kansas State.

And then Mazey threw his cap — not literally — into one of the back-and-forth conversations that comes with college athletics.

Just how important are conference tournaments?

It’s a question with several answers, each one of them depending on the situation.

The perfect comparison may be preseason games in the NFL. If you’re already an establish star, preseason games are the absolute worst.

If you’re a guy fighting for one of the last few remaining roster spots, then preseason games are critical.

As Mazey took in WVU’s entire resumé that includes 19 wins in the Big 12 and a No. 36 ranking in the RPI, his belief was the Mountaineers were already in as an at-large team.

And so, an extended stay in the Big 12 tournament, to Mazey, was not needed for the Mountaineers.

“It’s a lot harder to win this 10-team tournament than it is a four-team (NCAA) regional,” Mazey said in downplaying the importance of the Big 12 tournament. “The next step in the progression of West Virginia baseball is to win a regional.”

    Mazey went on to say he never would have expressed those thoughts to his players going into the conference tournament.

    One wonders if those would still have been his thoughts if WVU had won a couple of games rather than going 0-2 for a third straight season in the Big 12 tournament.

    Regardless, Mazey made the decision of not using his top starting pitcher Derek Clark on four days rest in the loss against Kansas State, instead using a rotation of six relief pitcher who gave up 11 walks and eight runs.

    “If you looked at our dugout, you would have seen Derek put his cleats on in the fifth inning and tapping me on the shoulder and just annoying the crap out of me,” Mazey said.

    It’s a gamble, to be sure, especially if the selection committee doesn’t agree with Mazey’s assessment.

    That happened as recently as 2022, when WVU was snubbed and not included in the field of 64. There are some similarities, too.

    In 2022, the Mountaineers had the exact same 33-22 overall record, while going 0-2 in the Big 12 tournament.

    The difference was WVU was ranked No. 49 in the RPI that season with five wins against nationally ranked teams, while playing 22 games against teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament.

    WVU also had five wins this season against top-25 competition.

    “I think we have an unbelievable case,” Mazey said. “We went 19-11 in the Big 12 and finished in fourth place. For (the committee) to not let us in would be a crime.”

    Mazey then paused, possibly thinking back to that 2022 season, “They’ve committed crimes before,” he added.

    WVU returned to Morgantown and began practicing for the NCAA tournament that begins Friday.

    Clark and fellow starting pitcher Tyler Switalski will be well rested by then.

    That is, if WVU still finds itself in the NCAA tournament.

    “If I didn’t feel confident that we were going to be playing next weekend, you would have saw Derek Clark,” against Kansas State Mazey said after that game. “It’s a pretty good feeling that you still have next weekend to play.”

    NCAA projections

    • D1 Baseball: The No. 2 seed in Charlottesville, Va., along with No. 1 Virginia, No. 3 James Madison and No. 4 Bryant.
    • BASEBALL AMERICA: The No. 2 seed in Lexington, Ky., along with No. 1 Kentucky, No. 3 Indiana, No. 4 Sacred Heart.
    • DRATINGS: Listed as the next four out, along with Xavier, Ohio State and South Alabama.
    • COLLEGE SPORTS MADNESS: The No. 2 seed in Raleigh, N.C., along with No. 1 North Carolina State, No. 3 Illinois and No. 4 UNC Greensboro.
    • The No. 2 seed in Charlottesville, Va., along with No. 1 Virginia, No. 3 Vanderbilt and No. 4 Bryant.

    How a regional works

    It’s a double-elimination tournament with four teams. No. 1 plays No. 4 and No. 2 plays No. 3 in the first round. The two winners and the two losers meet in the second round. It takes three wins to win the regional from the winner’s bracket and four wins for a team coming out of the loser’s bracket.