Can you keep a secret? With just six games remaining on the docket, No. 11 West Virginia is in realistic position to claim at least a share of the regular season Big East Championship for the first time in school history. And in a season which shows no less than eight of the league's 16 schools either ranked or receiving votes in the latest polls, such an accomplishment would be even greater.
Just don't tell that to head coach Mike Carey or any of his players. By all appearances, the only thing anyone inside the women's basketball program is worried about is Saturday's home game with DePaul.
"In the Big East, you really can’t look ahead that much because every team is capable of beating you," Carey explained. "If we start looking ahead to other games, then let’s face it we’re going to get beat. I don’t think we look ahead, even in the Providence game. We need to concentrate on DePaul, and after DePaul we’ll worry about Cincinnati."
This season more than ever, the normally-deep Big East is even more of a juggernaut. National powers such as Connecticut, Rutgers, and Notre Dame have remained strong. Veteran squads such as the Mountaineers, Louisville and DePaul have spent all or much of the season in and around the Top 25.
Add in young but promising Syracuse and steady Pitt, and one quickly begins to see precisely what Carey is talking about.
"You see teams like Syracuse and even Cincinnati the other day beating South Florida by double-figures," Carey explained. "Everybody is beating everybody, and we have to be ready to play. That’s the good thing about having a bunch of seniors is that they have been through the league for three years and they realize they have to be ready to play everyday. If they aren’t, you’re going to get beat."
On the heels of Wednesday night's impressive 56-35 throttling of No. 18 Pitt, Carey is hoping his team can continue to play intense defense for 40 minutes on Saturday. Even though the Mountaineers didn't have the most productive night on offense against the Panthers, they still managed to dominate a ranked foe from start to finish because of an outstanding defensive effort.
Even on nights when the shots aren't falling, Carey expects his team to bring two key ingredients for success: defensive intensity, and defensive execution.
"You have to go into the game with a lot of energy, and a lot of intensity on defense," said senior Meg Bulger. "At the same time, you have to know your roles. You have to know who can penetrate, who can shoot it. Its execution and it’s intensity, and you make up for a lack of execution with energy."
Defending the Blue Demons will certainly be a steep task for West Virginia on Saturday. DePaul is second only to Connecticut in the Big East with an average of 80.2 points per game.
"They’re a very good basketball team. They’ve lost their last two games, and that knocked them out of the Top 25," Carey said. "They lead the conference in scoring.
"They score a lot of points and get up and down the floor very well," he continued. "They have a lot of people who can score. They can score inside and outside. It’s going to be a tough game. We’ve really got to pick up on them in transition."
A win over the Blue Demons would be another step in West Virginia's under the radar quest for the conference crown.