We’re barely three days from the national championship and already early 2008-09 top 25 lists are being rolled out. Want to know how WVU is being perceived after the surprise Sweet 16 run? Well, you won’t have to scroll too far in most rankings, considering we’re damn near the top.
First, ESPN’s Andy Katz:
6. West Virginia
Why? Just look at what happened in the NCAAs. Coach Bob Huggins did a masterful job of blending the John Beilein offensive strategies of back cuts and 3s with his much more demanding defense and rebounding. The big question, of course, is whether or not junior Joe Alexander takes the bait and leaves for the NBA draft. Key contributors Alex Ruoff, Da’Sean Butler and backup point Joe Mazzulla, who was sensational in the upset of Duke, return.
Why not? If Alexander is gone, then the Mountaineers can’t be in the Top 25 to start the season. Losing point Darris Nichols also doesn’t help. Not having a backup like Mazzulla for Mazzulla won’t help, either.
Think that’s a fluke? Guess again.
Now, SI’s Luke Winn:
7. WEST VIRGINIA - If late-season sensation Alexander, a 6-foot-8 forward, sticks around for his senior year and teams up with top recruit Kevin Jones, a 6-7 forward, the Mountaineers will have a potent one-two punch in the frontcourt.
Both very lofty rankings. And both totally dependent on Joe Alexander coming back to school — which we’ll cover later this wee.
While WVU being ranked high is a big story, the stacked Big EAST might be even bigger. Andy Katz has four — count ’em four — Big EAST teams in the top 10 alone (Pitt, Notre Dame, WVU, and UConn). Add to that Syracuse, Louisville, and Georgetown, and the Big EAST has seven representatives in the top 25.
Luke Winn, doing things in a slightly more unorthodox manner, has three Big EAST teams in his top 10 (UConn, WVU, and Georgetown) and six more in his top 30 (Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse, Marquette, Villanova, and Louisville). That’s nine freakin’ teams in the top 30.
So, basically, the Big EAST next year is a buzzsaw on (probably) an unprecedented level in college basketball.