MORGANTOWN - They're expecting big things out of a West Virginia women's basketball program that planned to return all five starters, 10 players, and 98 percent of its scoring from a team that won 24 games and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Seniors Ayana Dunning and Asya Bussie and junior Jessica Harlee were named the team's tri-captains for the season, but Bussie injured a knee in practice prior to the season and will miss all of it. Other than that, the only player they lost was graduated senior Natalie Burton.
The Mountaineers opened the season ranked 19th in the USA Today Sports Top 25 women's basketball coaches poll and 17th in the Associated Press Poll.
West Virginia, which has made three straight appearances in the Big Dance under 11th-year coach Mike Carey, was also picked second in the Big 12 preseason poll.
They began things on a positive note with a 76-47 victory against UNC Wilmington, followed that up by slipping past Boston University, 60-57, then USC Upstate, 75-45.
Bussie, a first-team All-Big East player a season ago who had started every game of her Mountaineers career, was a 1,000-point scorer who averaged 12.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Dunning, WVU's leading rebounder, averaged 8.3 points and 8.4 rebounds, figures to be a double-double machine.
Harlee, a theft artist who led the Mountaineers with 65 steals, averaged 5.1 points and 5.4 rebounds.
Junior guard Christal Caldwell averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds while starting 27 games and earning honorable mention on the Big East lists.
Junior guard Taylor Palmer had five 20-point games last season on her way to an average of 10.6 per game. She also made 74 3-point field goals, 48 percent of the team's total.
Brooke Hampton, another junior guard, led WVU with 141 assists.
Akilah Bethel, a sophomore guard, averaged nearly 11 minutes per game and had a pair of double-figure scoring nights.
Sophomore forward Averee Fields found her way late, scoring a career-best nine points in the NCAA Tournament against Texas.
Crystal Leary, another sophomore forward, earned six starts as a freshman, and shot 72 percent from the free-throw line.
Linda Stepney, a sophomore guard, was named to the Big East All-Freshman Team after a season in which she had 89 steals and averaged 4.4 points per game.
The freshmen are Bria Holmes, Lanay Montgomery, Jennie Simms, and Scott High's Makenzie White, the first in-state player to play at WVU in five seasons.
Nov. 9: UNC Wilmington W, 76-47
Nov. 12: at BostonW, 60-57
Nov. 17: USC UpstateW, 75-45
Nov. 23: LSUL, 71-63
Nov. 25: IowaL, 79-70
Dec. 2: at Virginia 2 p.m.
Dec. 4: Marshall7 p.m.
Dec. 8: St. Bonaventure7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16: Youngstown State 2 p.m.
Dec. 20: Duquesne7 p.m.
Dec. 29: Appalachian State7 p.m.
Jan. 2: at Oklahoma8 p.m.
Jan. 5: Kansas7:30 p.m.
Jan. 9: Texas7:30 p.m.
Jan. 12: at Kansas State4 p.m.
Jan. 16: TCU7 p.m.
Jan. 19: at Baylor8 p.m.
Jan. 22: Texas Tech7 p.m.
Jan. 26: Iowa State7 p.m.
Jan. 29: at Oklahoma State 8 p.m.
Feb. 3: Oklahoma1 p.m.
Feb. 6: at Texas Tech8 p.m.
Feb. 9: at Kansas3 p.m.
Feb. 13: Oklahoma State7 p.m.
Feb. 17: at Iowa State1:30 p.m.
Feb. 23: at TCU8 p.m.
Feb. 26: Kansas State7 p.m.
March 3: Baylor7 p.m.
March 5: at Texas8:30 p.m.
March 8-11: Big 12 ChampTBA