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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Big (XII) Expectations
Now that it's official, the debating has already begun about WVU's expectations of success in the Big 12. The preseason pollsters have the football team in the top 10 for next year, but I don't see where anyone expects us to win the Big 12. (to be fair, Oklahoma is considered a national champion contender next year) I also read an article from Oklahoma that stated our basketball team was going to be rebuilding next year. (I thought that was this year)
Dana Holgerson has roots in Texas and was a coach for several years in the Big 12. That makes the question: Are conference foes tougher to play because they are familiar with the personnel or the system. We struggled in DH's first year against some pretty substandard teams (compared to Big 12 competition) in all aspects of the game. This isn't terribly surprising. USF always gives us a time and Syracuse has beaten us twice in a row when they shouldn't have been close. Will the Big 12 be ready for what may be the best offense in college football next year? I think we'll contend for the conference title next season, but it's hard to imagine we'll make it through that schedule better than Oklahoma and Texas. For the long haul, the move does nothing but benefit WVU for recruiting purposes. Texas will be more accessible for us to recruit from (in the way that Florida is) and the Big 12 is a much better draw for incoming players.
Though it's been exciting watching the basketball team this year, they are ending up about where it was expected at the beginning of the year. They're able to knock off a few better teams while losing to a few they shouldn't and remaining a bubble team. While it's true that we lose two huge contributors from this years team, we only lose two players. With all the freshman getting important minutes this year, they will be seasoned players as sophomores ready to pounce on increased offensive opportunities. Kilicli will be a force to be dealt with, and he'll be joined by transfer Aaric Murray who already has significant accomplishments on his resume from LaSalle. As good as people expect next season's football team to be, I think the basketball team will be just as good. And while it's an increase in strength of schedule for the football team, the basketball players have already been put to the task of playing against the best in college. Recruiting could be interesting given that a lot of our players have come from the NY area and the east coast. Without having The Garden as a draw, Huggins may have to recruit from other areas. I don't doubt he'll be quite successful wherever he gets his players given his past success at KState and Cinc.
Oddly enough, the Women's Basketball team could benefit the most from the move. Coach Carey has done another fantastic job with this years team and his schedule looks to get a whole lot easier. Currently, they battle against perennial powerhouses UConn and ND. (Congratulations to the ladies for the magnificent win at ND last week). Rutgers and Louisville also field strong teams on a yearly basis. That won't be a problem in the Big 12. Counting the teams that will be in conference next year and excluding WVU, the Big 12 currently has one ranked team and two receiving votes. (Baylor is #1, and KState is only receiving 1 vote) The Big East by comparison has 5 teams ranked and another receiving votes. While Baylor will still likely be a powerhouse next year, they should fall off after 6-8 Brittney Griner graduates. That will set the stage for WVU to be a perennial contender for the conference.
The future should be extremely exciting and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic. It's time to show the rest of the country what we have.