MORGANTOWN -It seems like every time West Virginia University's men's basketball team takes the court these days, the Mountaineers find themselves in a must-win game.
That statement certainly applies to tonight's contest at the Coliseum against visiting DePaul, the bottom feeder of the Big East Conference with a 2-14 league record.
A loss and WVU (17-12, 7-9) will find itself in serious jeopardy in its bid to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. In the most recent bracketology feature on ESPN, WVU is a No. 12 seed. That means the Mountaineers are in line for one of the last at-large bids to the 68-team tournament that will decide the national championship.
Some observers say WVU must win its final two regular season games -tonight's home game against DePaul and Saturday's noon contest at South Florida -in order to make the tournament field. Otherwise, WVU will find itself with a losing conference record during the regular season and thus likely would need to win more than one game in the Big East Tournament next week.
West Virginia has lost its last four home games and has just one win in regulation since its Jan. 18 triumph over Marshall in Charleston.
The Mountaineers will be celebrating Senior Night, meaning this may be the last time Kevin Jones and Darryl 'Truck' Bryant grace the floor of the Coliseum. Jones and Bryant have participated in 92 WVU wins, a Big East championship, and three NCAA Tournament appearances, including the 2010 Final Four.
Jones has been the most consistent performer on a young Mountaineer squad and is a leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year. He is the all-time WVU career leader in offensive rebounds and ranks fourth nationally this season in that category. He also is second in double-doubles, third in rebounds per game, fourth in field goals made and 12th in points per game. Jones joins the legendary Jerry West as the only two WVU players to score 1,700 points and grab 1,000 rebounds.
Jones is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game, both topping the Big East. Bryant is WVU's second leading scorer at 16.2 points per game. Other probable starters are juniors Deniz Kilicli (11.3), and guards Jabarie Hinds (7.7) and Gary Browne (6.4).
DePaul, which has lost eight games in a row since a victory at Rutgers on Jan. 22, is led by junior forward Cleveland Melvin, who averages 17.4 points per game, and 6-3 sophomore guard Brandon Young, who scores at a 14.8 point clip.