The text hit my phone at 5:12 p.m. Tuesday.
“Mitch if we lose tonight – we’ll not win Saturday – we’ll not be in the [NCAA] tourney! Nor do we deserve to be!”
I can’t tell you how many messages like that I’ve received through my life, most before my move to Wheelhouse Creative.
“Keep the faith. Because you have no choice.”
It’s the same with every WVU fan. I don’t know one that isn’t passionate about their Mountaineers. I don’t know one that doesn’t bask in the athletic teams’ successes. And, yes, I don’t know one that isn’t distressed over losses.
And, of course, the ongoing WVU basketball season is a jumble of all.
There was a wait-and-see approach at the beginning of the Mountaineer season, especially after the 15-21 clunker of 2018-19.
Then there was the joy for West Virginia fans as their team downed Pitt. And Wichita State in Mexico. And former-No. 2 Ohio State. And former-No. 22 Texas Tech. And Missouri in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Of course, there was also the mushroom cloud WVU left by nuking Texas, 97-59.
Then something inexplicable happened. The heart the Mountaineers were playing with seemed to shrink to Grinch-like proportions.
Heading into a Feb. 8 game against Oklahoma, WVU was 18-4 overall and 6-3 in Big 12 play. A No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament was all the talk.
Yet remember how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes one day? Remember how he found the strength of 10 Grinches (plus two!)?
Well, WVU seemed to lose strength.
There were losses. Losses felt by every Mountaineer fan. Kicks to the stomach after defeats to Kansas and Baylor and TCU. There was another to Oklahoma. Then, stunningly, to Texas.
Yet today, Wednesday, guess what? The sun is shining again for Mountaineer fans. Their team is 20-10. It is coming off a victory – an away victory at that – over Iowa State. And it seems WVU has a firm grasp on an NCAA tournament bid. The Mountaineers are No. 19 in the important NCAA NET rankings. They are No. 13 in the kenpom.com rankings and No. 17 in the Rating Percentage Index.
“We’re an NCAA lock,” WVU1 tweeted at me this morning. “Now we need to beat Baylor and make some hay in Kansas City!”
Different tone from Tuesday at 5:12, eh?
Let’s face it, such is the life of Mountaineer fans. It will never, ever change.
WVU fans will be rooting on Saturday.
They will be rooting in the tournament. And next season. And every subsequent season. Through the victories. Through the losses. Through outrage.
It’s a Mountaineer fan’s lot in life.
Might as well make peace with it.
And enjoy the hell out of it.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.