WVU News, Notes & Rumors – April 20
The Associated Press released its 2018 college football preseason rankings Tuesday, and West Virginia checked in at No. 17.
It’s the second straight year WVU has earned a preseason top 25 ranking in the A.P. poll, and at No. 17, it’s the highest the Mountaineers have been ranked going into a season in six years. While WVU was ranked No. 22 in the 2017 preseason, the last time it was higher than the current No. 17 came in 2012, when West Virginia, fresh off an Orange Bowl win over Clemson, was No. 11.
In the history of the A.P. college football poll, which began in 1936, the Mountaineers have now been ranked in the preseason 17 times. It has been rated in the top 10 in four of those – No. 10 in 2004, No. 5 in 2006, No. 3 in 2007 and No. 8 in 2008.
The bad omen for WVU is that in eight of the previous 16 times it has been rated in the preseason, it has not been rated at the end of the season, including last year when the No. 22 preseason mark spiraled to unranked at the end of the year with three straight losses following the injury to quarterback Will Grier. West Virginia also was ranked at the start but unranked at the end in 2012, 2010, 2004, 1998, 1995, 1994 and 1970.
On the other hand, the Mountaineers have been ranked in the final A.P. poll of the season 19 times. They have been ranked in both the first poll and the final poll eight times.
In this year’s preseason A.P. poll, last season’s national champion Alabama is again No. 1, followed by Clemson, Georgia, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Washington, Oklahoma, Miami, Auburn and Penn State round out the rest of the top 10.
Besides No. 7 Oklahoma, the Big 12 is represented in this year’s preseason A.P. poll by TCU at No. 16, WVU at No. 17 and Texas at No. 23. Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Iowa State also received votes.
One of WVU’s non-conference foes, N.C. State, received votes, finishing 32nd in the voting order.
West Virginia was rated No. 20 in the USA Today preseason coaches’ poll, which came out earlier this month. Oklahoma was No. 5 on that list, with TCU No. 16, Texas No. 21 and Oklahoma State No. 25.
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One prominent former Mountaineer who is on a WNBA roster won’t be participating in that league’s upcoming playoffs.
The 2018 WNBA playoffs open on Tuesday, Aug. 21, with a pair of single-elimination first round matchups: Dallas at Washington (7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2) and Minnesota at Los Angeles (9:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2).
The Connecticut Sun, which features former Mountaineer Bria Holmes, awaits the highest remaining seed from those first round games in another single-elimination contest on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
But Holmes, just as was the case throughout the regular season, will not be available for the Sun during the playoffs. Bria’s absence is not a bad thing, though, as she recently gave birth to beautiful baby girl, Diona D’ior Lawhorn.
Holmes capped off her WVU career in 2016, scoring 2,001 points in her four seasons at West Virginia and earning first-team All-Big 12 honors in each of her final three years. Only two players – Cathy Parson (1980-83, 2,113) and Rosemary Kosiorek (1989-92, 2,061) – have scored more points in the history of the Mountaineer women’s program than Holmes. After completing her college career, Bria was a first round pick in the 2016 WNBA draft, going No. 11 overall to the Atlanta Dream. The 6-foot-1 guard had a strong first two seasons in Atlanta, averaging 7.5 points as a rookie in 2016 and 7.8 points in 2017.
Holmes announced this past January that she would not participate in the WNBA season because of her pregnancy.
“Unfortunately I will have to miss the 2018 season because I’m expecting, but I plan to return to the Dream in 2019 stronger, healthier and ready to play,” Holmes said at the time. “As a female professional athlete, it is hard to start a family while playing year-round, but this little human inside of me is truly a blessing to me, my family and my boyfriend. I’m so happy and thankful I can continue my career after my bundle of joy is here. To my coaches, teammates, staff and fans, I want to thank you so much for all your support and help since I was drafted in 2016 and wish everyone good luck this season – I’ll be cheering you all on! One Dream, One Team.”
As it turned out, Holmes would not return to Atlanta. She was part of a draft day trade in April, being dealt to the Connecticut Sun in exchange for the 15th overall selection in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2019. A native of New Haven, Conn., Holmes returned to her home state. She is the only native of the state of Connecticut drafted in the first round by the WNBA.
Even without Holmes, there are eight other Big 12 alums participating in this year’s WNBA playoffs: Atlanta Dream – Imani McGee-Stafford of Texas and Alexis Prince of Baylor, Los Angeles Sparks – Odyssey Sims of Baylor, Minnesota Lynx – Alexis Jones of Baylor and Danielle Robinson of Oklahoma, Phoenix Mercury – Brittney Griner of Baylor, Seattle Storm – Courtney Paris of Oklahoma, and Washington Mystics – Ariel Atkins of Texas