It’s never too early for next season, right?
The premature ending to this year’s college basketball season has raised countless questions among fans across the country. Sadly, most of those will likely go unanswered, and so many fans and pundits have already begun the countdown to next season (230 days, but who’s counting).
Coach Bob Huggins is expected to bring back most of his 21-10 squad for next season, including four starters, while also adding some talent in players like redshirt freshman Jalen Bridges, and recruits Isaiah Cottrell, Taj Thweatt and Kedrian Johnson. Having made a significant improvement from the year prior, the Mountaineers established themselves as a competitor on the national stage, finishing at No. 24 in the AP Top 25.
WVU is getting a lot more love looking forward to next season, though. They appear in a number of different spots in various “Way-Too-Early Top 25” rankings across the college basketball world. Of course, this is all for naught once the ball is tipped, but that’s not happening for another eight months.
ESPN ranking (by Jeff Borzello): 24
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello puts the Mountaineers right where they finished this season in the AP Top 25, referencing the fact that they exceeded many pundits’ expectations this season and will keep much of their squad intact for next.
“The Mountaineers will need to find more consistent ways to score in the half court, and another year from Miles McBride — who had a breakout stretch midway through the season — should help. There’s also Jalen Bridges, a former ESPN 100 prospect who committed to the Mountaineers late in the process before taking a redshirt year in Morgantown,” he writes.
CBS Sports ranking (by Gary Parrish): 14
The Mountaineers get the biggest nod from CBS Sports’s Gary Parrish, who takes a more analytical approach to his decision. While WVU did struggle through their Big 12 schedule (especially on the road), Parrish cites the KenPom rankings, where the Mountaineers finished No. 10. That, he says, suggests they were better than their record may imply.
Yahoo Sports ranking (by Krysten Peek): Unranked
While Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports did include four Big 12 teams, the Mountaineers are left off of this list. The usual and expected suspects of Kansas, Baylor and Texas Tech each make an appearance on the list, but she adds one additional team — Oklahoma State — who will be adding Cade Cunningham, one of the top high school point guards in the country, to their roster next season.
USA Today ranking (by Scott Gleeson): 17
West Virginia is rated highly by Scott Gleeson of USA Today, who points to the high number of returners, as well as expected improvement from breakout freshman star Oscar Tshiebwe.
NBC Sports ranking (by Rob Dauster): 21
NBC’s Rob Dauster gives the Mountaineers some respect in his rankings at No. 21. While he does acknowledge that WVU may look nearly identical as they did this past season, he goes a step further to project that newcomer Kedrian Johnson will get the start in the backcourt, filling the vacancy left by Jermaine Haley.
“The Mountaineers are going to be exactly what they were last season: Big, physical, overpowering defensively and on the glass and able to win games when Miles McBride and Emmitt Matthews are able to [make] enough shots to keep defenses from collapsing,” Dauster writes.
FanSided ranking (by Connor Muldowney): 19
It was quite clear from the outset of the season that the Mountaineers had to make up for their lack of experience, which Bob Huggins repeatedly preached throughout the year. Their surge in the first half of the season, however, proved that they were able to compete despite those shortcomings, and FanSided’s Connor Muldowney notes that as a positive, regardless of their late-season struggles.
“That’s what happens to young teams and that’s why the outlook is good for 2019-20,” he writes. “West Virginia was young but another year of experience and solid defense should have them near the top of the Big 12.”