#15 West Virginia Women's Basketball 2021-2022 Preview

West Virginia Mountaineers
Overall Rank: #15
Conference Rank: #3 Big 12
 West Virginia Logo
After a couple of years having to settle for trips to the WNIT, West Virginia had a great 2020-2021 season. They entered the NCAA Tournament with just six losses on the season and half of those came at the hands of Baylor. There is no shame in finishing second in the Big 12 to Baylor. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they once again failed to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, this time falling to Georgia Tech. That is now 13 trips to the NCAA Tournament for WVU without a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. This could be the year that streak finally comes to an end.
2020-21 Record: 22-7, 13-5
2020-21 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Carey
Coach Record: 431-223 at West Virginia, 719-325 overall
Key Departed Players (starters in bold)
Kysre Gondrezick, Guard, 19.5 ppg
Rochelle Norris, Center, 3.2 ppg
Key Returning Players (starters in bold)
KK Deans, Junior, Guard, 13.7 ppg
Esmery Martinez, Junior, Forward, 13.6 ppg
Kari Niblack, Senior, Forward, 9.1 ppg
Madisen Smith, Senior, Guard, 8.2 ppg
Jasmine Carson, Senior, Guard, 4.5 ppg
Jayla Hemingway, Junior, Guard, 4.2 ppg
Blessing Ejiofor, Senior, Center, 2.8 ppg
JeAnna Cunningham, Sophomore, Center, 0.4 ppg
Key New Players
Isis Beh, Sophomore, Forward, JC Transfer
Ari Gray, Senior, Forward, Transfer from Xavier
Messiah Hunter, Freshman, Forward
Yemiyah Morris, Senior, Center, Transfer from Mississippi State
JJ Quinerly, Freshman, Guard
Wynter Rogers, Freshman, Guard
Savannah Samuel, Sophomore, Guard, Transfer from Oregon State
Four starters return, but the one loss is huge. Kysre Gondrezick averaged 19.5 points and 4.5 assists during her last season with the Mountaineers. She was then selected fourth overall in the 2021 WNBA Draft. Junior KK Deans is ready to take on the leadership role. Last season she was second to only Gondrezick with 13.7 points and 3.9 assists per game. Deans is a great shooter and knocked down 41.5 percent of her attempts from beyond the arc. With the focus of opposing defenses keying in on her, Deans will need some scoring help from the perimeter in order to keep up that type of shooting percentage. Madisen Smith is the most likely candidate after averaging 8.2 points per game a season ago, but Jasmine Carson is a good shooter too and Jayla Hemingway stepped into the starting lineup when Smith was out last year. Esmery Martinez and Kari Niblack are back to form an extremely dangerous frontcourt duo. Martinez is the more dynamic scoring threat, averaging 13.6 points per game with the ability to step outside and knock down some shots facing the basket. She is also one of the best rebounders in the country and tallied an impressive 11.6 rebounds per game. Martinez also led the team in steals and is a dangerous shot blocker, but it is Niblack who swats away the most shots. Xavier transfer Ari Gray and Mississippi State transfer Yemiyah Morris will add some much-needed depth to the frontcourt and all of that experience will have West Virginia again vying for the #2 spot in the Big 12.  
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.3 (53rd in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.0 (182, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.2 (42, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.9 (206, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.9 (175, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.3 (38, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 73.5 (80, 6)
Rebound Margin: 3.2 (80, 2)
Assists Per Game: 15.3 (43, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 15.0 (129, 6)
Madness 2021 Women’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#85 Wynter Rogers
#97 Messiah Hunter