With new faces on both the team and coaching staff, the future is uncertain for what the West Virginia Mountaineers are capable of producing in Morgantown this season.
As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.
West Virginia Mountaineers fans were hopeful this season when former head coach Bob Huggins hit the transfer portal with full force and was able to accumulate what most said was the best transfer class of the 2023 season.
Within months, Huggins resigned as head coach, the coaching staff took a total revamp and some players were lost along the way. Interim coach Josh Eilert has five returning players and a slew of transfers to work with this upcoming season. Will he be able to pull off a successful season, or will the hopes of fans come crashing down?
Eyes will be on the lone returning Mountaineer, in Kobe Johnson. Johnson put up significant minutes last season and holds the most experience as a Mountaineer compared to the rest of the team. This is especially true as Jose Perez is no longer on the team.
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Head coach: Josh Eilert (1st season, 17th at WVU)
2022-23 record: 19-15 (7-11)
2023 postseason finish: Lost to Maryland, 65-67, in NCAA Tournament Round of 64
Notable departures: Erik Stevenson (Graduated), Emmitt Matthews Jr. (Graduated), Tre Mitchell (Transferred to Kentucky)
Notable non-conference games: vs St. Johns (Dec. 1), vs. Pittsburgh (Dec. 6), at Ohio State (Dec. 30)
PG: Kerr Kriisa (6-3, 185, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 9.9 PPG, 5.1 APG, 2.4 RPG, 37.2 FG% (Arizona)
SG: Kobe Johnson (6-3, 205, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 2.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 56.5 FG%
SF: RaeQuan Battle (6-5, 195, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 17.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.9 APG (Montana State)
PF: Akok Akok (6-10, 225, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 6.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.0 BPG (Georgetown)
C: Jesse Edwards (6-11, 240, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 14.5 PPG PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.7 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 62.7 FG% (Syracuse)
6: Jeremiah Bembry (6-5, 185, Rs.-Fr.)
2022 247Sports Composite No. 265 rated recruit (Florida State)
7: Seth Wilson (6-2, 220, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 4.2 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 0.5 APG
8: Quinn Slazinski (6-9, 230, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 11.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.9 APG (Iona)
9: Pat Suemnick (6-8, 235, Rs.-Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 1.4 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.1 APG, 50.0 FG%
West Virginia Mountaineers MVP: Akok Akok
The Mountaineers haven’t had a true inside presence for quite some time. With several big men arriving from the transfer portal, fans should be ecstatic to finally have some size down under that can produce for the team. This starts with Akok Akok.
Akok comes from two storied basketball schools in UConn and Georgetown where the coaching staff taught him how to be a force down low. Akok started every game at Georgetown and averaged 6.5 PPG. He had 10 games of double-digit scoring games this past season, proving he can score while also posing a threat.
Scoring isn’t the only thing that makes Akok special. He also averaged 6.2 RPG and 2.0 BPG making him a weapon on the defensive side of the ball. Last year, Akok totaled 62 blocks in total at Georgetown.
“Akok runs the floor extremely well and adds athleticism to our roster,” Eilert said. “He gives us the ability to stretch the floor with his shot-making skill. Akok will give us a bigger defensive presence with his shot-blocking, his ability to alter shots around the rim, and the way he can sit down and guard. He really gives us many different attributes that we didn’t have. Akok has played a great deal of Big East basketball and brings more experience to our roster.
West Virginia Mountaineers make-or-break player: RaeQuan Battle
This honor had previously gone to Jose Perez, but he’s no longer on the team.
That means RaeQuan Battle will have a lot on his plate – and so will the West Virginia Mountaineers – pending his transfer waiver.
If Battle can play, it gives WVU a much needed scoring, especially without Perez. If the NCAA denies him the chance to play this season, the Mountaineers all the sudden have a very thin team. West Virginia’s season very much revolves around RaeQuan Battle.
Key analytic: Defensive rebounds
West Virginia, as previously mentioned, struggled with having an inside presence last season. Too many times, their opponents would have second and third chances for put-backs that left the Mountaineers scrambling for big offensive runs.
This season brings promise with the likes of Akok Akok, Jesse Edwards, and Quinn Slazinski. All three players have decent rebounding averages that should help the Mountaineers secure the ball off of defensive misses. Not only that, but all three players also bring a size down under that the West Virginia Mountaineers haven’t had in quite some time.
West Virginia Mountaineers 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 7th in the Big 12
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16 Exit