Column - WVU shined when doubted
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 23:03
At the beginning of the 2012 basketball season, the West Virginia women’s basketball team was picked to finish No. 9 in the Big East Conference standings.
The Mountaineers were supposedly going to be on the bubble of making the NCAA tournament, if not on the outside looking in.
They had zero preseason all-Big East team members. By the end of the season, junior center Asya Bussie earned first-team all-Big East selection, sophomore guard Christal Caldwell earned all-Big East honorable mention honors, and freshman point guard Linda Stepney was named to the all-Big East freshman team.
When nobody thought WVU could knock off top-tier teams in the country, the Mountaineers strolled into South Bend, Ind., and beat the No. 2 Fighting Irish, snapping their 21-game winning streak.
Before the Big East tournament in Hartford, West Virginia already had a record of 21-8 overall and 11-5 in Big East play, and was a lock for the NCAA tournament. In 2011, in a season where WVU was ranked in the top 10 for 14 straight weeks at one point, the Mountaineers finished at 22-8, but only 8-8 in conference play and weren’t a sure decision to move on to the tournament.
Head coach Mike Carey lost five seniors from the 2011 squad and clearly got the players he had this year to perform to the best of their abilities and to really buy into what he was trying to accomplish.
The team could have shut down when it was going through adversity and not worry about expectations because they weren’t "supposed" to be anything. But they did the exact opposite. They fought hard and reached for the highest bar they could touch.
It ultimately ended up in a defeat by one of the best teams in the country in Stanford, but the Mountaineers believed they could compete with anyone at anytime, when no one else did.
That is something special to be recognized and shows the bright future ahead for Carey and this program.
What to expect next year:
The Mountaineers bring back their entire 2012 roster for next season, except forward Natalie Burton.
So that’s a full off-season of workouts and practices for the players to build chemistry and watch film of what they can fix from this season.
Carey is bringing in what could possibly be his best recruiting class ever. Small forward Bria Holmes is ranked No. 28 in the ESPN HoopGurlz top-100 rankings and has the athleticism to run up and down the floor with the guards. There are several other highly-regarded players that Carey is very excited about combining with what the Mountaineers already have now.
The move to the Big 12 conference will not be easy, as it features several top-10 teams in the country this year and probably the best player in the nation – Brittney Greiner.
But Carey will get his players ready to compete against anyone, as he did this year, and his team definitely has a chance to be ranked in the top 25 going into next season.
The defense will be there, that’s certain. But will the offense be able to score a little bit more than it did this year to elevate WVU to the next level with other top teams like Baylor, UConn, Stanford and Notre Dame?