West Virginia's men's basketball team has one of the best supporting legacies behind it, and it has new facilities and a great venue in the best basketball league in the nation. All that's missing is more consistent success, but it's that fact which keeps it from rising any higher than sixth in our rankings.
All of the panelists are pretty close in that evaluation: Bob Huggins' team is clearly above many of the programs at WVU, but it's also clearly behind the top five. Overall, there are more positives than negatives, but the deficiency in on-court performance recently keeps it from moving higher.
Greg Hunter: (5th) In 2012-13, the Mountaineers suffered through their first losing season (13-19) in the then six-year reign of Bob Huggins. West Virginia took a small step forward this past year, finishing 17-16 and earning a spot in the NIT. The 2013-14 achievements paled in comparison to Huggins’ first five years at WVU, all of which included NCAA tournament trips, one of which led to the Final Four (2010). Still, 2014 was an improvement on 2013. West Virginia had hoped 2015 would be even better, but transfers from two of the Mountaineers’ top three scorers have dampened that optimism. The graduation rate for the men’s program has been very good in recent years, and the three-year-old basketball practice facility is among the nicest in the nation, but until the attrition cycle slows, long-term success is going to be hard to achieve.
Matt Keller: (6th) Men’s basketball, which failed to reach the NCAA Tournament over the past two seasons, did so despite excellent facilities and tradition. It did defeat a handful of top 25 teams over the two Big 12 seasons, however, including No. 8 Kansas this year.
Michael Carvelli: (7th) For all the strides West Virginia men’s basketball appeared to make a year ago, it looks like the program will go back to being a bit of a mystery this season. Losing players like Eron Harris, Terry Henderson and Remi Dibo will surely hurt the Mountaineers in some way, considering the three of them made up for more than 44 percent of the team’s scoring in the 2013-14 season. But there are still plenty of positives to look at. Obviously Juwan Staten will be a frontrunner to be first team all-Big 12 and could be a contender for the league’s Player of the Year next season, while the progression and emergence of players like Devin Williams, Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon could help make up for the losses of the transfers and Dibo. If WVU can get back to playing good defense and running the floor and rebounding well, things could start to turn around soon.
Kevin Kinder: (6th) The facilities are top notch, the support reasonable, but despite that this program is on a downward arc. A rebuilt roster is being touted with some optimism, but until those players show they can achieve at a higher level (and not squabble internally) than the teams of the past two years, this program is on the cusp of dropping even further.
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