February may be the shortest month, but it looks like it might be the biggest month of the year for West Virginia athletics. Five Mountaineer teams are currently set to face a combined total of eight ranked opponents in February, including three matchups against the #1 team in the country. A few WVU teams are also heading into the postseason later this month. As a result, it was difficult to narrow down the options. Many notable matchups, such as Noah Adams and the West Virginia wrestling team facing ranked opponents on back-to-back days, didn’t make the cut for the top five. But here are the top five games for Mountaineer athletics in this month!
Honorable Mention: Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving hosting the Big 12 Championships (February 26-29)
The West Virginia men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are having solid seasons. The men’s team is currently 4-1 after winning four in a row during January. The Mountaineers also gained first place finishes in the West Virginia State Games and the WVU Invitational in November. The women’s team is currently 2-3, but it holds a 2-0 record in Big 12 competition and placed first in the West Virginia State Games. For the first time in conference history, the Big 12 Championships for men’s and women’s swimming and diving will be held at The Aquatic Center at Mylan Park in Morgantown. WVU’s new facility opened in the fall and is part of the state-of-the-art aquatic and track complex at Mylan Park. Hosting the Big 12 Championships not only gives WVU a chance to show off its new Aquatic Center, but it will also give the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams a chance to show they that are a Big 12 contender.
5. Women’s Basketball vs #2 Baylor (February 24)
After starting the season 13-1, with a 3-0 conference record, the West Virginia women’s basketball team fell apart during the second half of January. The Mountaineers have lost their last four games, all in Big 12 play, and are now heading into February with a 13-5 record. WVU dropped out of the latest AP Top 25, but is still receiving a vote in the poll. ESPN’s Bracketology with Charlie Creme also has the Mountaineers solidly in the national tournament as a #9 seed, possibly because of their strong nonconference wins over #9 Mississippi State and Michigan State. WVU will have opportunities to get back on track and continue building its resume in February.
The Mountaineers have three games this month that will be nationally televised, and the biggest one will be against #2 Baylor. The Lady Bears have won their last 11 games to hold an 18-1 record overall and a perfect 7-0 record in Big 12 play. WVU lost the first matchup with Baylor this season, 51-91, on the road. The Mountaineers will have a chance to avenge that blowout loss in front of their home fans and a national audience on FS1 later this month.
4. #24 Gymnastics at #1 Oklahoma (February 14)
The #24 West Virginia gymnastics team has moved into the Road to Nationals Rankings after two wins over New Hampshire and Temple. WVU also is in the top 25 nationally on floor and on balance beam, at #18 and #24, respectively. Freshman Abbie Pierson is leading the team on vault with her #4 individual national ranking. The Mountaineers have also been helped by senior Chloe Cluchey, who recently won the Big 12 Conference Event Specialist of the Week award. WVU has a huge matchup on Valentine’s Day, when it travels to face the reigning national champions, #1 Oklahoma, and Texas Woman’s. Oklahoma is currently undefeated, and Texas Woman’s is 3-3. OU is a national powerhouse and the Mountaineers have not been able to defeat the Sooners since joining the Big 12. If WVU can outperform Oklahoma in this matchup, it could help move the team further up in the Road to Nationals Rankings. The competition will be shown on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
3. #3 Rifle vs #1 Kentucky (February 15)
The #3 West Virginia rifle team is powering through its schedule again this year. The Mountaineers have a perfect 8-0 record, with all of their wins being over teams that were ranked in the top 12 nationally at the time. WVU has two more matches against ranked opponents before postseason competition begins. The bigger of those two matches will be against #1 Kentucky. The Wildcats are also undefeated this season.
WVU has been led by senior Milly Babic and newcomer Akihito Shimizu. Babic has the team’s best air rifle average, with 595.75. She also gained WVU’s highest air rifle score of the season against #2 TCU, with an amazing 599. If the Mountaineers can defeat UK and finish the regular season with an undefeated record, it could help them head into the postseason with momentum, as they go for the program’s 20th NCAA National Championship. WVU will also host the NCAA Qualifying Match and travel to Memphis for the GARC Championships later this month.
2. #12 Men’s Basketball vs #3 Kansas (February 12)
The #12 Mountaineers suffered their second road loss in conference play on Wednesday to Texas Tech. Although the loss was a tough way for the West Virginia men’s basketball team to end January, the month was still successful for the team, thanks to a few blowout wins. WVU is now 16-4 overall, with a 4-3 Big 12 record. The conference schedule will continue to bring challenges, and one of those challenges will be when the Mountaineers host #3 Kansas. The Jayhawks are currently 17-3 and sit in second place in the Big 12 standings with a 6-1 conference record. KU has been led by senior center Udoka Azubuike, who is almost averaging a double-double with 12.8 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Devon Dotson is also a leading contributor with 18 points and 4.3 assists per game. While Kansas has one dominant big man in Azubuike, WVU has two. Like Azubuike, Mountaineer freshman Oscar Tshiebwe is close to averaging a double-double with 11.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. WVU sophomore Derek Culver is also close to averaging a double-double with 10.7 points and 9 rebounds per game. Kansas edged WVU in the first matchup this season, 53-60. If the Mountaineer big men can be productive and stay out of foul trouble, they could help keep WVU’s home magic alive and lead the team to a revenge win over the Jayhawks. This game will be streamed through Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
1. #12 Men’s Basketball at #1 Baylor (February 15)
A few days after the Mountaineers play Kansas, they will head on the road to face the top team in the country. The #1 Baylor Bears have dominated this season. The Bears are 18-1 with a perfect 7-0 record in Big 12 play that has them at the top of the conference. Their only loss of the season was in their second game against Washington, and they narrowly lost, 64-67. Baylor has been led by sophomore guard Jared Butler, who is leading the team with 15.4 points per game. Redshirt senior forward Freddie Gillespie has also stepped up for the Bears this season. He leads the team with 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. While their accomplishments so far are impressive, they are yet to face WVU. Senior guard Jermaine Haley and junior transfer Gabe Osabuohien have each gathered 23 steals this season. Osabuohien has also taken over 10 charges and is nearing 100 deflections this year. The Mountaineers have enjoyed his defensive boost off the bench, and they have also enjoyed the offensive contributions from freshman Miles “Deuce” McBride. Deuce has come off the bench every game to average 10.4 points per game, and he leads the team by shooting 40% from three. The Mountaineers will need all the help they can get in this road game. Like WVU, Baylor is also undefeated at home this season. If the Mountaineers can break that streak and give the Bears their first home loss, it could help WVU in the national polls and it could help the team in the Big 12 standings as the season continues. This game will be streamed through Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
There’s no doubt that February is a huge month for WVU athletics. Having all of these matchups against some of the best teams in the country provides the Mountaineers with incredible opportunities to show what they are capable of in their respective sports.