MORGANTOWN W.Va- Despite a 7-0 start to the season that has included wins over Pittsburgh, Wichita St., and Rhode Island, the Mountaineer basketball team received just 28 votes in the December 2nd update of the AP Poll.
While the early-season absence wasn’t a shock to most fans due to the rebuild 2018-2019 campaign last season, recent confident play against solid out of conference opponents and an eventual Cancun Challenge championship last week, have led to confusion among Mountaineer fans nationwide.
Even with wins over solid opponents, many of the naysayers have pointed to the lack of any ranked wins early on for the Mountaineers or any “true-tests.” The same can be said for ranked teams in Arizona, Seton Hall and Colorado who are ranked 12th, 16th, and 20th respectively in the national circuit.
The RPI, or rating percentage index, although considered to be outdated by many lists the Mountaineers as #1 nationally with a 0.75 rating. The RPI combines the strength of schedule, with the quality of wins thus far.
While it isn’t shocking for a Bob Huggins led team to have to earn national respect, typically in the underdog fashion, the Mountaineers will have a big opportunity to burst on the scene this Saturday night against St. Johns at Madison Square Garden.
Although the Red Storm come in unranked, a nationally televised game as an underdog could go a long way for the Mountaineers in getting into the top 25.
The same can be said about the December 29th match against Ohio St. With the Mountaineers being considered underdogs, the Buckeyes are currently the #6 team in the country, and will give the Mountaineers a chance to showcase their backcourt depth, along with dominant bigs in Tshiebwe and Culver.
Despite being unranked, the team as a whole has received plenty of national attention over the course of the first two months of the season.
Andy Katz, a college basketball analyst, and NCAA correspondent bumped the Mountaineers from #36 to #20 in his power rankings this week after the Mountaineers win over Wichita St.
West Virginia freshman Oscar Tshiebwe has been named the Big 12 Newcomer of the week twice already, and Derek Culver posted a career night with 25 points and 11 rebounds against Rhode Island in Morgantown.
Tshiebwe isn’t the only newcomer who has made an impact early on, as freshman sensation Miles McBride has taken over a leadership role early on in his career due to his high motor and above-average fundamentals of the game and has garnered buzz from many national outlets.
The Mountaineers will tip-off against St. Johns Saturday night at 12:00 PM, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports One (FS1).