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WVU Women’s Basketball

AP Voter Explains Vote for WVU Women’s Basketball



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WVU Women’s Basketball sits at 13-0 on the season, one of just six remaining undefeated teams in the country. Despite that lofty record, it took the Mountaineers until the eighth week of the season to become ranked among the Associated Press Top 25

Griffin Floyd of WVSN asked AP Poll voter Mitch Northam for his thoughts regarding the Mountaineers, including when he started ranking them on his weekly ballots and what he thinks of the team overall.

The Mountaineers climbed to the No. 24 spot in the poll released Monday, January 1, their highest ranking of the season. Northam said he placed them a spot higher than that, citing their dominance against other major programs as a key point in the decision.

WVU Women’s Basketball Continues AP Poll Climb

“I’ve ranked WVU for the past two weeks and this week I had them at No. 23, sandwiched between Davidson and TCU,” Northam said. “WVU is undefeated and they’ve beaten four Power 5 opponents by an average of 17 points per-game — they deserve to be ranked.”

West Virginia’s chief calling card this season is their aggressive press defense. They force 25.23 turnovers per game, the most of any team from a major conference, but Northam added their shooting percentage and assist rate as two other areas that make the Mountaineers stand out.

Playing Devils Advocate Against the Mountaineers

WVU Women’s Basketball still hasn’t lost a game, and they’ve dominated most of the teams they’ve faced. Even so, they haven’t faced the toughest schedule. Right now, the opponents they’ve faced hold a combined record of 79-78, the 155th-most difficult group of opponents in Division 1.

Northam said the Mountaineers caught his eye during following their December 4 victory over then-No. 25 ranked Penn State. Unfortunately for West Virginia and their fans, they haven’t earned another marquee win to hang their hats on since then.

“I would say that West Virginia really got on my radar as a potential Top 25 team after they beat Penn State, which was ranked at the time,” Northam said. “Penn State is still really the lone signature win the Mountaineers have, but I also believe in rewarding success and consistency… What Davidson has over WVU, I think, is a better signature win: beating Duke at Duke.”

Northam also described his philosophy as a voter early in the season, when the Mountaineers struggled to receive recognition even as the wins piled up. Without many marquee matchups early on, voters need to rely on performances from the previous season, transfers and recruiting classes to make their picks.

“It’s hard early on in the season. Starting with the preseason poll, you really make your judgements on what happened in the previous season and what you’re expecting this season,” Northam said. “That’s why myself — and a good amount of other voters — started the year off ranking LSU and UConn at one and two. Of course, upsets happen, you watch more games and your perspective changes.”

Big 12 Play Ramping Up

Strength of schedule could become a moot point soon, as the Mountaineers host No. 10 Texas on Saturday, January 6. They also travel to play No. 11 Kansas State in February, and will play a pair of games against No. 6 Baylor and No. 23 TCU.

Playing in the paint could prove difficult for the Mountaineers as they hit that gauntlet. Head coach Mark Kellogg rolls with a four guard lineup most of the time, which gives West Virginia the speed and flexibility to hound their opponents up and down the court. With every action comes an equal and opposite reaction, though, and the Mountaineers average just 4.9 more rebounds per game than their opponents do—a number that will likely regress as they face taller lineups in the Big 12, as Kellogg has alluded.

Northam listed matchups in that vein to keep an eye on for the Mountaineers as the season progresses, especially as more teams rely on small ball.

“It’s hard to say. There are so many women’s basketball teams that play small or positionless lineups with three, four or even five guard-like players. WVU ranks middle of the pack in most-rebounding stats,” Northam said. “I could see teams like Texas and Baylor — both of which have depth in the frontcourt and talented starters at the post positions — giving WVU some problems, and I think Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee is going to be a real challenge for them. But, that’s why we play the games, right?”

Kellogg’s WVU women’s basketball team will now get to really prove themselves today against No. 10 Texas.

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