MORGANTOWN - If you're at all worried about West Virginia's place in the college basketball world, as it pertains to the NCAA Tournament, don't be.
If recent history is any indicator, the Mountaineers (14-5 overall, 4-2 Big East) are doing just fine.
Using the Marshall game, which inexplicably sits one-third of the way through the league season, as a guide, West Virginia isn't far from where it has been the past two seasons when it made better-than-expected runs in the NCAA Tournament.
Bob Huggins has his young Mountaineers in fine shape after 19 games.
That says a lot given all but three guys on this season's roster are first-time Division I players.
Last season, after WVU lost to the Thundering Herd, it was 12-5 overall and 3-2 in the Big East. That team wound up as a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament and won a first-round game against Clemson - sound familiar? - before falling to eventual Final Four participant Kentucky. (After 19 games, the Mountaineers were 13-6, 4-3).
During the 2009-10 season, WVU was 14-3, 4-2 and wound up as a No. 2 seed that had a legitimate shot as a No. 1 seed in the tournament. That team made the school's first Final Four since 1959. (After 19 games, Da'Sean Butler's team was 16-3, 5-2 and ranked No. 9 in the country).
Today Cincinnati (15-4, 5-1) comes calling in front of a packed house at the WVU Coliseum, where West Virginia has won 45 of its last 56 league games. Each of those last two WVU teams won game No. 20, including last season's group, which beat the Bearcats 66-55 on the road in this spot.
WVU Football Athletic Trainer Dave Kerns sent out an update on WVU's injured football players earlier this week.
It looks as if four players - Madonna's Connor Arlia (right fibula/internal injuries), Jewone Snow (shoulders), Terence Garvin (left knee), and Dustin Garrison (left knee) - will miss spring ball.
Arlia will have an x-ray of his fibula on Wednesday and has a no lift/no run status at the moment. Snow has cartilage tears in both shoulders, but a full recovery is expected. Garvin had surgery to repair cartilage in his knee on Dec. 12. He's expected to be back in June. Garrison had ACL/MCL surgery last Friday and a full recovery is expected.
Other Mountaineer injury news includes Terrell Chestnut, who missed the entire season with a dislocated shoulder. He should be cleared for spring ball, as will lineman Josh Jenkins, whose patellar dislocation injury is healed. He has been cleared and is participating fully with all team activities.
Donovan Miles had surgery for a fractured 4th metacarpal (hand bone - nearest ring finger), on Jan. 8., after he played the second half of the Orange Bowl with the injury. It's in a splint and should participate in spring ball. Finally, linebacker Doug Rigg, who dealt with a pesky wrist injury all season, looks like he'll be OK - with gradual progression.
The Mountaineers are charging toward the top of the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings, currently sitting in 13th place.
The Directors' Cup was developed as a joint effort between the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and USA Today. Points are awarded based on each institution's finish in up to 14 sports - seven women's and seven men's.
West Virginia finished 40th last season and its best finish was 30th in 2009. It has finished in the top 50 four straight years.
The football team's 18th-place finish contributed 56 points to the Mountaineers' latest ranking.
Stanford leads all schools with 382 points.
Baseball American has honored three former WVU players, including Morgantown native Jedd Gyorko.
Gyorko, in his second season of pro ball, had a monster year in 2010. Splitting time between Class A Lake Elsinore and Class AA San Antonio, Gyorko had a minor league-leading 192 hits, 25 home runs, 114 RBI, a batting average of .333 and an on-base percentage of .400 in in 576 at-bats.
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com