Before I really dive into the opening thoughts, I want everyone to watch this video. If this doesn’t get you pumped up, you may need to see a doctor.
If you’ve seen Black Panther, you’ll probably get the story there. If not, I’ll explain it using our cast of characters, without spoiling too much: Jevon Carter/West Virginia is the King of College Basketball in the Mountain State, but all of a sudden a long-lost relative - Jon Elmore/Marshall - shows up demanding to take the throne. Battles ensue. The story is amazing. Seriously, folks, if you haven’t watched Black Panther, go watch it today. You have plenty of time before this game tips off.
I feel like this game was penciled in on every West Virginian’s bracket as soon as the matchups were announced last Sunday. It almost felt like mountains were going to be moved - mostly by the Herd - to make this thing happen. It feels huge. It is huge.
So, here we are - West Virginia and Marshall - together for the first time in three years. This time it’s on the opposite side of the continent, and the dead rims of the Charleston Civic Center will thankfully be absent. We’ve got ourselves a nice five game win streak going over the Herd, but nothing is certain when it’s do-or-die in the NCAA tournament.
There’s clearly no love lost between the two programs and their fans. Marshall fans won’t hesitate to jump into a war of words with Mountaineer fans on social media, and on the flip side of that we’ve got our own faceless warrior who prides himself on being the biggest Marshall detractor. Things are probably going to get pretty feisty today, so it may be best for any innocent bystanders to just stay away from WVU and Herd Twitter until this thing is over.
Buckle up, folks. There’s gonna be some good, ol’ fashioned hate flowing through these hills today and through the night. The entire world will be watching when the Mountaineers and Herd duke it out for Mountain State supremacy and a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.
Date: Sunday, March 18th, 2018
Tip-Off Time: Approx. 9:40 PM ET
Where: Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl, San Diego, California
SiriusXM: Channel 81
Spread: West Virginia -12
Where are they from? Huntington, West Virginia
Series History: West Virginia leads the all-time series 33-11, and has won the last five games between the two teams.
SB Nation Blog: Mid-Major Madness
Record: 25-10 (12-6 C-USA)
Record in 2016-17: 20-15 (10-8 C-USA)
Head Coach: Dan D’Antoni (4th season)
PLAYERS TO KNOW
Marshall has a trio of in-state guards that will be chomping at the bit to will their squad to a huge upset.
- Jon Elmore, #33 (Charleston): Elmore is the guy for the Herd, the heart and soul. He’s averaging 23 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists per game this season. Elmore scored 27 points on Friday in the upset of the No. 4-seed Wichita State Shockers.
- CJ Burks, #14 (Martinsburg): Burks is another dangerous scorer. He’s averaging 20 points per game, with a season high of 36 points vs. Rice on February 15th. He had 13 points against Wichita State.
- Jarrod West, #13 (Clarksburg): That name should be familiar to all Mountaineer fans. Jarrod’s dad, Jarrod Sr, took down Bob Huggins’ No. 2-seed Cincinnati Bearcats with a buzzer-beating three pointer in the 1998 NCAA tournament.
I’m sure Jarrod Jr. would love the opportunity to do the same tonight.
West is averaging 8 points and 3 assists per game as a Freshman, with season highs of 23 and 22 points. He had 9 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals on Friday against the Shockers.
AFRAID APPREHENSIVE SHOULD WE BE (ON A SCALE OF 1-10)?
TEN. I may be one of the few, but I’m never comfortable when we play Marshall. Not because I’m afraid of them, moreso that I’m not sure what to expect. Call it apprehension, I guess.
I know a lot of people don’t like to admit it, but this is a rivalry game. It’s a basketball rivalry because, unlike their football team, Marshall has actually beat us a few times and are genuinely a decent team. They’re going to come into this game with fire in their eyes, and the Mountaineers need to be prepared. There’s a lot more than a Sweet Sixteen bid at stake here.
PREDICTION THAT WILL BE WRONG
The Mountaineers win in one of the most physical NCAA tournament games in recent memory. Jon Elmore shows that he can hang with the big dogs, but Jevon Carter’s defense proves to be too much for him in the long run.
West Virginia 84, Marshall 73