Column - WVU women overachieved this year
Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 08:02
With the regular season coming to a close Monday night, now is as good of a time as ever to look back on what the West Virginia women's basketball team has been able to accomplish so far.
The Mountaineers were picked to finish No. 9 in the coaches' preseason conference poll – a modest expectation for most, given West Virginia's departing players and inexperienced roster.
Junior center Asya Bussie, however, thought that the preseason ranking was too pessimistic. It comes as no surprise to her that West Virginia ultimately finished better than predicted.
"I think that our ranking was too low in the beginning of the season, and I knew our team was better than that," she said.
"I knew (the ranking) was going to go up but I didn't have a number in my head for how many wins we should get."
Head coach Mike Carey didn't have a win total in mind either, but he is the first to admit that it wouldn't have been as high as the 21 the Mountaineers have achieved this season.
"If somebody would have told me before the season started we'd be 21-8 and 11-5 in the Big East, I would have told them they were crazy," he said.
"I'm just like every other coach in the country – there's probably three or four of those five (losses) in the Big East we shouldn't have lost."
The Mountaineers went an impressive 6-2 in February against the meat of its Big East schedule.
Consecutive wins over ranked opponents Louisville, Notre Dame and Rutgers marked the first time in program history that West Virginia won three straight games over ranked foes.
Not bad for a team that lost two of its first five games to the likes of St. Bonaventure and Cal State Northridge.
Last season, West Virginia was ranked No. 11 in the country in the preseason and would rise to as high as No. 6 in mid-January. However, the second-half of the season saw serious regression, as the Mountaineers would drop nine of its last 14 games.
This year's team is almost the exact opposite.
Despite flirting near the bottom of the top 25 rankings, the Mountaineers have yet to be nationally ranked.
Its 11 wins in conference play surpass last season's total of eight – and to think, roughly 85 percent of the team's scoring graduated prior to this season.
I think the emergence of a redshirt sophomore guard Christal Caldwell was perhaps the biggest boon to the offense and what helped cushion the blow of the departing players.
The University of Florida transfer went through an adjustment period in the first half of the season, but when she got past that, she became one of the most consistent offensive weapons on West Virginia's roster.
She scored double-figures in 16 consecutive games – with the streak ending last night in the 60-42 victory over Pittsburgh.
Not to worry, though. The Mountaineers' second-leading scorer (11.9 ppg) is in fine form and should be ready to go in the Big East tournament.
It's impossible to tell how far West Virginia will go in the postseason. The favorable seeding in the conference tournament could potentially lead to a rematch with No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the conference semifinals.
Regardless if that happens, there's no denying that what this team has done is truly special. Do you know what the scary part is?
This is just the beginning.
With only one senior (center Natalie Burton) graduating and a nationally-ranked recruiting class coming in, now is as good of a time as any to head into the Big 12 – one of the nation's premier conferences for women's basketball.
When analysts attempt to tag West Virginia's preseason chances there, just remember what they did this year.
Until then, however, be sure to recognize and congratulate the women's basketball team on an exciting and successful year of play.
What they've done has been impressive and it merits proper appreciation.