There’s no getting around it, 2018-19 was a huge disappointment for WVU men’s basketball under Bob Huggins. Slotted as the #13 team in the country in the AP Preseason poll, their last place Big 12 finish was their worst since joining the league in 2012-13, as was their 4-14 in-conference record. Overall it was only Huggins’ second losing season as WVU head coach and first since their inaugural Big 12 season.
With lots of turnover in the offseason, punctuated by the decision of Sagaba Konate to declare for the NBA Draft, the team comes into the season with only four upperclassmen on its roster. Gone are four of the top five scorers from last year’s team. Fortunately, that young roster includes the Big 12’s highest rated recruit, Oscar Tshiebwe, who will be counted on along with returning team leading rebounder Derek Culver to provide staunch defense and rebounding down low.
Now faced with a daunting schedule in perhaps college basketball’s toughest conference, WVU will have its work cut out for it. Forunately (most) of the national pundits expect, at the very least, the team to pull itself out of the basement of the Big 12 and find respectability.
Last year the Big 12 sent six teams (60% of the conference) to the NCAA Tournament. Is the team in line for a return? Since Bob Huggins took the Cincinnati coaching job in 1989-90, his team’s have only missed the big dance in consecutive season twice: 1989-1991 and 2012-14.
What do the national pundits expect from Huggins and company in 2019-20? The Big 12 predictions find the team somewhere between 7th and 10th, well below the Big 12 coaches, who picked them 5th out of 10 teams. In overall rankings, there’s a huge spread from Team Rankings’ 78th position to Jeff Sagarin’s 27th(!). What’s it all mean? Probably that the pundits are just as unsure about the season as we are.
The Mountaineers will tip-off their season this Friday at 7:00 p.m. when they take on the Akron Zips at the Coliseum.
BIG 12 PREDICTIONS
Big 12 Coaches Poll: 5th out of 10
Athlon: 7th out of 10
ESPN: 8, 8, 9, 7
NBC Sports: 10th out of 10
SBNation: 7th out of 10
SI: 7th in Big 12
Jay Bilas: 32nd
ESPN BPI: 74th
Team Rankings: 78th