The West Virginia Mountineers did very well during their last season in the Big East. They went 9-3 against their non-conference opponents with included: #25 St. Bonaventure and UCLA. They followed by finishing the regular season with a conference record of 11-5. Their conference schedule was not easy because they had to play against UCONN, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers, DePaul, and St. John’s (all were ranked when WVU played them).
They finished fifth in the Big East and lost to Notre Dame in their second game of the Big East Conference Tournament. They made it into the NCAA Women’s Championship. In their First Round game, they defeated the #9-seeded Texas Longhorns, but lost to the #1-seeded Stanford Cardinals in the Second Round. WVU’s final record after the postseason was 24-10.
However, will West Virginia get the same respect that it did from the Big East? Yes. Last week, the Mountaineers were voted the preseason ranking of #2 in the Big 12 by the league’s head coaches. They did receive one first-place vote, but the preseason #1 is the Baylor Lady Bears.
This is the fourth consecutive season where the Lady Bears have been named preseason #1 in the Big 12. WVU and Baylor will face off on January 19th, 2013 and March 2nd, 2013.
One player that will not be able to help out the Mountaineers against Baylor and the rest of the Big 12 is senior center Asya Bussie. On October 4th, she suffered a knee injury during practice and the team announced that she will miss the entire 2012-2013 season. Last season, Bussie averaged 12.7 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, and 1.3 blocks per game.
According to West Virginia’s athletics website, head coach Mike Carey said “Knowing the type of person Asya is, there is no doubt in my mind, she will turn this into a positive and come back from this bigger and stronger.”
West Virginia will most likely look to their other senior center, Ayana Dunning, to pick up the slack for Bussie’s absent. Last year, she led the team’s rebounding efforts with 8.4 rebounds per game (fifth-highest average in the BIG EAST) and had five double-doubles (the second most of any WVU player for the season).
Dunning will not have to do everything for the Mountaineers, however, because the team will also have one of their leading scorers returning this season. Junior guard Christal Caldwell led the team as she averaged 13.9 points per game (in conference games). The 2011-2012 season was her first season with WVU after sitting out the previous year due to the NCAA’s transfer rules. In her first year with the team, she earned an All-BIG EAST honorable mention.
This season will be a good one for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Their non-conference schedule is not as tough as last year and their conference schedule will be different, but reasonable. The only teams that the Mountaineers will really need to watch out for are Baylor and Oklahoma.
There is no reason why they should not finish #2 in the Big 12 this year. We could see a season where the second place team is closer to Baylor then in years past. If Bussie was not out for the season, West Virginia could have been seen as a contender in the Big 12.
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Check out my other writings on the Oregon Ducks blog, Autzen Zoo.