Without preseason ranking, we would see this West Virginia hoops season differently

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — There is no getting around the disappointment that has come this season with the West Virginia men’s basketball team.
“Obviously the season hasn’t gone the way we anticipated it,” said West Virginia associate head coach Larry Harrison, who subbed for head coach Bob Huggins on Thursday’s Big 12 media call, because Huggins was having some dental work done.
Huggins has already done his fair share of chewing out this season, so a visit to the dentist was probably much needed.
But, in getting back to the point, we ask this simple question: Would you, the fan, be as frustrated watching this team if the Mountaineers weren’t preseason ranked No. 13 to start the season?
Would your expectations have been set at a more realistic point coming off the graduations of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr.?
Here’s guessing your answer would be a resounding, “Yes.” Sure, there would still be frustrations with this team, especially defensively, but take away that preseason ranking and the majority of embarrassment is lifted right away.
This isn’t an opinion for blasting those who thought so highly of the Mountaineers back in November. It’s an opinion blasting the reasoning for a preseason poll to begin with.
Outside of serving as a starting point for the No. 1 team in the country — we’ve had six different No. 1 teams this season in 12 weeks, by the way — a preseason poll accomplishes nothing more than getting your hopes up for the other 24 teams in the poll.
That includes West Virginia, who will travel to the sixth No. 1 team this season (Tennessee), at 4 p.m. Saturday, as part of the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge.
We are in the 12th week of the this season’s top 25 poll and there are 10 teams now in the rankings who weren’t preseason ranked.
No. 17 Houston — hey Big 12, you REALLY need to add this school to your roster — didn’t even receive a single vote in the preseason.
The same can be said about No. 19 Iowa.
Without the preseason ranking, maybe we wouldn’t have been so blind to the fact that Sagaba Konate was the first and last line of defense for West Virginia.
Maybe we wouldn’t have simply assumed that players like Esa Ahmad and Lamont West were going to suddenly develop other facets to their game and become better shooters or rebounders or ball-handlers or whatever it was we assumed back then.
Maybe we wouldn’t have expected Chase Harler to suddenly step up and have some impact when he literally hadn’t played much before.
That’s what the preseason poll does to you. It makes you ignore the facts that are right there in front of your face, all because of some ranking.
Opponents were shooting 40.2 percent against the Mountaineers while Konate was playing. That’s not great, but it is at least manageable.
In the 10 games since Konate’s right knee injury made him unavailable, WVU opponents are shooting 46 percent from the field and are averaging 75 points per game.
In no way shape or form is that manageable at all.
If you are truly the 13th-best team in the country, one player should not make that much of a difference.
If you are the 13th-best team in the country, you have others step up and fill the void and that simply hasn’t happened with the Mountaineers.
Without the preseason hype, a 31-point loss to TCU or blowing a 21-point lead to Kansas State or even losing to Buffalo to start the season doesn’t become less frustrating.
They do become more understandable, which makes me wonder if that preseason ranking wasn’t the worst thing that happened to this team all year.

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