Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

WVU men’s basketball team picked to finish in a tie for fifth in Big 12 pre-season poll

MORGANTOWN — Looking back on it now, Taz Sherman realized his days of being teammates with Deuce McBride were numbered early last season.

“I knew when we played in Cancun (last November) that Deuce was a pro. I didn’t know how long was he was going to be here,” Sherman said. “I think we all knew internally that Deuce was going to leave.”

Maybe it was never said out loud, and for that matter, it was never predicted publicly that Derek Culver was thinking of leaving school early, either.

But, as Culver kept pounding his way through double teams and McBride kept performing at a high level, their WVU teammates somehow knew that last season was meant to be Culver’s and McBride’s last hurrah in college.

Without the talented duo, the Mountaineers were picked to finish fifth Thursday in the Big 12, a tie for fifth, actually, along with Oklahoma State.

The usual suspect in Kansas, which received eight first-place votes, was tabbed the favorite by the league’s coaches — for the 10th time in the last 11 years — followed by Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech.

What might have been? Sure there have been thoughts like that among this group of WVU players.

“There was a process there,” Sherman said. “I think we got over it pretty fast.”

“We respected their decisions to move on,” WVU forward Gabe Osabuohien added. “The coaching staff did a great job of bringing in the right people in the recruiting class to help us this year.”

Maybe with McBride and Culver still in the lineup, it would be WVU and not the Jayhawks that would be celebrated with the conference hype today.

Without them, WVU head coach Bob Huggins admits there are several unknowns heading into this season.

“We just don’t have veteran guys who played a lot of minutes coming back,” he said. “Taz didn’t play that many minutes until the end and Sean (McNeil) didn’t either until the end. Those are pretty much are most experienced guys. That’s a whole lot different than having Deuce back and Derek back. There’s a lot of unknowns.”

Those unknowns, in terms of pre-season expectations, mean the Mountaineers are once again on the road to earning conference and national respect.


“Yes and no,” McNeil said. “With Deuce leaving, he obviously did a lot of great things for us and it was a great loss. We did lose some respect, but this program will always have some respect, no matter on who is here or who leaves, but we definitely have some things to prove.”

“I feel like nobody really knows what we’re capable of,” Osabuohien added. “It’s on us to go out and show it.”

Oklahoma was picked seventh in the poll, followed by TCU, Kansas State, and Iowa State.

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