Sports, Women's Basketball, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Kellogg’s Mountaineers are looking ahead of schedule with 9-0 start

Mark Kellogg has no idea who the one AP Top 25 women’s basketball voter was that gave the Mountaineers a single vote in last week’s poll.

“We briefly mentioned that we got a vote,” he said Sunday, after WVU dismantled Delaware State 107-43 inside the Coliseum. “It was kind of in a joking way. Hey, we got one. You’ve got a lot of people to convince, but somebody put us 25th on their ballot.”

To the one voter, Kellogg gave a sincere “thanks” with a smile.
As to whether or not the Mountaineers (9-0) deserve a few more votes …

“I would like to think so, for sure,” Kellogg said. “It’ll be interesting to see where they gauge us and judge us.”

Off to its best start since the 2017-18 season, WVU’s early run includes last Monday’s impressive 83-65 victory against No. 25 Penn State.

The case against the Mountaineers is no secret, that outside of that one game against the Nittany Lions, WVU has built its resumé against some rather average or below-average competition.

What can’t be argued is Kellogg and his players have something special brewing in Morgantown.

Special in the fact that WVU’s story at this point in the season was meant to be more introductory than anything else, with Kellogg coming in as a first-time Power Five Conference head coach, bringing with him an entirely new style of play and teaching it to players he had never seen before.

It was supposed to look good some days, bad the next and then maybe good again. Along the way, there would always be something to nag about, always some area that obviously needed a little tinkering.

Except that’s not the type of product Kellogg and the Mountaineers have put on the floor this season.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we were going to connect how we have,” is the way star guard J.J. Quinerly put it after she put up 25 points and 12 assists against the Hornets.

What WVU has done is embraced Kellogg’s full-court pressure style of defense, creating havoc for opponents, often times forcing them into some really bad passes or something even worse.

In turn, it creates fast breaks for WVU, along with some easy baskets, lots of stats, but more importantly, a team-wide willingness to share the wealth.

“They want to play the right way,” Kellogg said. “We’re missing some of those plays, but that’s OK. As long as you’re willing and accepting of them and understand the way we’re trying to play, we can work through that.”

And WVU has created all of this in nine games, but the players have made it look, so far, like they’ve been doing it for years.

To get back to the top 25 argument, I honestly don’t know if the Mountaineers are one of the best 25 teams in the country, but it’s been a long long time since this program has been this much fun to watch.

Now, don’t read in between the lines on that statement. Kellogg has not taken the Bad News Bears and turned them into winners.

Mike Carey gets the credit for that about 20 years ago. He gave WVU a national presence, not only in recruiting, but with an in-your-face and never-back-down type of mentality.

What Kellogg has done in such a short amount of time is create something marketable, interesting and fun with the women’s program.

Carey’s style was to create a street fight. Kellogg’s style brings a little more polish, a bit more flair.

That victory against Penn State was all about flair. The steals, the fast breaks, the pressure and the passing, all of it created a certain type of energy that any fan would enjoy watching.

The bigger question remains if WVU can still have these results once the opponent becomes Baylor and Texas, and no one knows that more than Kellogg.

To be sure, these Mountaineers are not indestructible. There will come a time when that defense isn’t as effective. There will be others when a lack of rebounding will probably really hurt.

“We’re nowhere near a polished product, yet,” Kellogg said. “What I like is we’re competing and playing hard. We have good energy when we play. That’s the stuff you’ve got to make sure you’re doing and that’s the stuff that’s covering up the mistakes.

“We’re going to make mistakes. There’s plenty of things we can continue to get better at.”

For now, though, Kellogg and WVU have written an unexpected story, one that may just lead the Mountaineers back to the national rankings that are released Monday.

“It’ll be close,” Kellogg said. “I think we certainly will, but if not, we’re going to keep winning and keep getting noticed nationally. If we’re not there this week, we will be in the next week.”