WVU Men’s Basketball Team Starts Season Ranked
West Virginia will enter the 2018-19 men’s basketball season ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press poll, which was released Monday.
Coming off a 26-11 mark last season that ended in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 with a loss to eventual national champion Villanova, WVU has now spent 55 straight weeks ranked in the A.P. poll, going back to early in the 2015-16 season. It’s one shy of the longest streak in school history (56 weeks from 1956-60), and is also the third-longest active streak in men’s college basketball today, eclipsed only by Kansas (180), Villanova (92) and North Carolina (80), and ahead of Duke (43), Gonzaga (38) and Cincinnati (34).
This is the sixth time in West Virginia history that it has been ranked by the A.P. in the preseason, though that poll didn’t have a preseason version until 1962, so the great Mountaineer squads from the Jerry West era in the late ‘50s had to wait until the regular season began to earn a spot in the polls.
WVU’s best preseason ranking came in 1962-63, when in Rod Thorn’s senior season the Mountaineers started off No. 5. West Virginia also entered the 2009-10 season No. 8 en route to a Final Four run. John Beilein’s 2005-06 WVU squad, fresh off an Elite Eight appearance, was ranked No. 14 in the preseason. West Virginia has also started off ranked in each of the last three seasons – No. 20 in 2016-17, No. 11 in 2017-18 and now No. 13.
While the Mountaineers have been ranked in the preseason A.P. poll six times, they have ended the season ranked in the final A.P. poll 17 previous times, including in each of the past four years. The A.P. began its polling in 1949, originally ranking a top 20 until upping that to a top 25 in 1990. Also for many years its final poll came before the NCAA championship game. WVU was ranked in the final A.P. poll in 11 seasons prior to Bob Huggins’ arrival in 2007. It was No. 9 in 1952, No. 19 in 1955, No. 20 in 1956, No. 7 in 1957, No. 1 in 1958, No. 10 in 1959, No. 5 in 1960, No. 9 in 1961, No. 14 in 1982, No. 17 in 1989 and No. 22 in 2006. Since Huggins has taken over as West Virginia’s head coach, the Mountaineers have finished the season ranked in the top 25 six times – No. 6 in 2010, No. 22 in 2011, No. 20 in 2015, Nov. 8 in 2016, No. 13 in 2017 and No. 15 in 2018.
No. 13 in the Associated Press poll should be a familiar spot for WVU, as both its football and basketball teams are currently ranked in that position by the A.P. West Virginia is one of just seven schools to hold a spot in both the current A.P. football poll and the A.P. preseason basketball poll. The other six are Kentucky (2 in MBB, 12 in FB), Oregon (14 in MBB, 19 in FB), Michigan (19 in MBB, 5 in FB), Clemson (22 in MBB, 2 in FB), LSU (23 in MBB, 4 in FB) and Washington (25 in MBB, 15 in FB).
In this year’s preseason basketball poll, Kansas is No. 1 followed by Kentucky, Gonzaga, Duke, Virginia, Tennessee, Nevada, North Carolina, Villanova, Michigan State, Auburn, Kansas State, WVU, Oregon, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Florida State, Mississippi State, Michigan and TCU, rounding out the top 20. Besides the three Big 12 schools who are ranked in the top 25, Texas Tech and Texas also are receiving votes from pollsters.
The Mountaineer men’s basketball team will host Penn State in an exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 3. West Virginia’s first regular season game will follow on Friday, Nov. 9 against Buffalo at the WVU Coliseum.