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Top Five Games for Mountaineer Athletics in December

Matchups against ranked opponents fill every spot in this month’s top games list.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

December will be very busy for West Virginia athletics. There are only three Mountaineer teams competing this month, but those three teams are facing a combined total of six opponents that are currently ranked, as well as a few teams that are receiving votes in the national rankings. Here are the biggest games for WVU athletics in December!

Honorable Mentions: #11 Men’s Basketball at Georgetown (December 6th) and #11 Men’s Basketball vs #19 Richmond (December 13th)

The #11 West Virginia men’s basketball team is off to a solid start this season. After weeks of schedule changes and game relocations, the Mountaineers traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to compete in the inaugural Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic. WVU knocked off South Dakota State, VCU, and Western Kentucky to come away with the tournament championship. Now the Mountaineers will be trying to erase the memory of last year’s loss to St. John’s in the Big East/Big 12 Battle, when they face former Big East foe Georgetown in the event this season. The Hoyas are 1-0 this year, after barely defeating UMBC. Georgetown leads the series with WVU, 27-25, including the last game between the two in 2014. The game will be nationally televised on FS1.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

There is another non-conference opponent that suddenly looks more threatening for the WVU men’s basketball team. #19 Richmond has sprung into the national rankings after the Spiders’ upset win over #10 Kentucky. This is their highest ranking since 1957. WVU and UR have played 54 times since 1951, with the Mountaineers winning 41 of those games, including the last matchup in 2015. The Spiders have been led by senior Nathan Cayo, who was just named the Co-Atlantic 10 Player of the Week after helping his team start the season 2-0. This matchup will be WVU’s second home game and will be nationally televised on ESPN or ESPN2.

5. Football at #12 Iowa State (December 5th)

The West Virginia football team has shown improvement in Neal Brown’s second season as the head coach. The Mountaineers are only 5-3, but they have had a great season statistically, especially on defense. WVU has the best pass defense in the country, allowing only 161.5 passing yards per game, and is currently fourth nationally in total yards allowed per game, with 274. The Mountaineers are also one of only 14 teams that is giving up less than 18 points per game on average. WVU also leads the Big 12 in all three of those categories, as well as in interceptions. #12 Iowa State has also been having a successful season and is currently riding a four-game win streak that has helped the Cyclones move into first place in the conference standings. ISU has won the last two matchups with the Mountaineers, but WVU still leads the all-time series 5-3. If the Mountaineers can pull off the upset win in this game, it would secure a winning season for coach Brown in his second year.

4. Women’s Basketball vs #4 Baylor (December 10th)

The West Virginia women’s basketball team collected two big wins to start the season at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout. The second win was head coach Mike Carey’s 700th career victory. Redshirt senior Kysre Gondrezick has led the Mountaineers in the early part of the season, averaging 22.5 points per game. Sophomore forward Esmery Martinez is nearly averaging a double-double with 9.5 points and 12 rebounds per game. WVU is now coming back to Morgantown for a handful of home games, including this matchup against #4 Baylor. The Lady Bears are 1-0 after a huge win over Central Arkansas, 82-37. Baylor’s junior forward NaLyssa Smith led the team with 25 points and 15 rebounds in that game, but she made only six of her 21 shots from the field and gained 13 of her points from the free throw line. A win in this game could help the Mountaineers move into the top 25.

3. Football vs #13 Oklahoma (December 12th)

The WVU football team has had a solid year offensively. The Mountaineers have improved their run game, thanks to junior Leddie Brown, and the passing game has also stepped up. WVU currently has the second-best passing offense in the Big 12, which helps the Mountaineers rank second in the conference in total offense as well. WVU also ranks 24th nationally in passing yards per game. Despite starting the season 1-2, #13 Oklahoma is still second in the conference and looking to win its sixth consecutive Big 12 title. The Sooners have won all eight games against WVU since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12, meaning WVU trails in the all-time series 2-10. This losing streak has been hanging over the heads of Mountaineer players and fans for years and putting an end to that streak would likely be Neal Brown’s biggest accomplishment in his first two seasons at WVU. This game was rescheduled due to OU’s inability to meet the COVID-19 requirements set by the conference, so the time and television details are being redetermined.

2. #11 Men’s Basketball at #7 Kansas (December 22nd)

The first conference road trip for the WVU men’s basketball team will potentially be the toughest one of the year. Later this month the Mountaineers will be traveling to Allen Fieldhouse to take on the #7 Jayhawks. Kansas is currently 1-1, after losing to #1 Gonzaga and defeating St. Joseph’s at the Fort Myers Tip-Off. Sophomore guard Christian Braun dominated in the Jayhawks’ win by putting up 30 points and grabbing nine rebounds. WVU has also been led by a sophomore guard in its first few games. Miles “Deuce” McBride led the team with 16.3 points and 3.3 assists per game in WVU’s first three wins. Senior Taz Sherman has also been contributing on the offensive end, leading the team by shooting 54.2% from the field and 63.6% from three. Kansas has won the last four matchups with the Mountaineers and has never let WVU win in Lawrence. If fans are unable to attend this ranked matchup, it could help the Mountaineers get their first win at Allen Fieldhouse.

1. #11 Men’s Basketball vs #1 Gonzaga (December 2nd)

Bob Huggins made a quick phone call last week and shortly after that call his Mountaineers were scheduled to face #1 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic. After two dominating wins in the Fort Myers Tip-Off, the Zags quickly became the overwhelming favorite to win the national championship this season. Gonzaga’s sophomore forward Drew Timme led the way in the first two games, averaging 26.5 points and eight rebounds per game. Fellow big man Corey Kispert also stepped up, averaging 24 points and five rebounds per game. But the Zags aren’t the only team with dominant big men. WVU’s junior forward Derek Culver is averaging a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. He was also named the Big 12 Player of the Week and MVP of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic. Oscar Tshiebwe and Gabe Osabuohien have also been helping the Mountaineers on the boards, averaging 8.7 and 7.3 rebounds per game, respectively. Osabuohien has also been a great difference maker on defense for WVU with his outstanding hustle plays and unparalleled effort.

Getting an upset win over the top team in the country, at one of the biggest early-season events in college basketball, will be a tough task for the Mountaineers. But if they can pull it off, it will help confirm the preseason speculation that this WVU team could be special. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.