Winter sports are heating up in Morgantown as multiple Mountaineer teams are climbing up in the national rankings and moving towards postseason play. Let’s take a look at the top five games for West Virginia athletics in February.
Honorable Mention: Men’s & Women’s Swimming & Diving at the Big 12 Championship (February 24th-27th)
The West Virginia men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams just concluded regular season competition with losses to #18 Notre Dame. Now the Mountaineers are preparing for the Big 12 Championship. The conference championship should have tough competition. The host school, Texas, has both the #1 men’s team and the #1 women’s team in the country. The TCU men’s team is also receiving votes in the national polls. WVU senior David Dixon and junior PJ Lenz recently received the Big 12 Swimmer and Diver of the Week awards, so the Mountaineers will rely on them to step up at the competition.
5. #26 Gymnastics vs #5 Denver (February 11th)
The #26 West Virginia gymnastics team had possibly the toughest start to the season possible. The Mountaineers had back-to-back matches against #3 Oklahoma, both of which WVU lost. But the Mountaineers were competitive and that shows with WVU’s rankings. The team is #26 in the Road to Nationals rankings and ranks #19 on beam and #22 on floor. The Mountaineers are also ranked #34 on both bars and vault. The tough competition will continue for WVU this month when they face #5 Denver twice. The Mountaineers will host the first match on February 11th, and it will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
4. #24 Women’s Basketball at #9 Baylor (February 17th)
Head coach Mike Carey and the #24 Mountaineers are having an incredible season. WVU is currently on an eight-game winning streak to improve its record to 13-2. Redshirt senior Kysre Gondrezick has been lighting it up for the Mountaineers. The guard is leading the team with 21.4 points and 4.8 assists per game. Sophomore forward Esmery Martinez is averaging a double-double with 14.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. WVU is second in the Big 12 standings and this matchup against the top team in the league will be a big one. #9 Baylor defeated the Mountaineers in their first matchup in December, but now WVU has huge momentum and a win in this game could help the Mountaineers climb to the top of the Big 12 standings. The game will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
3. #11 Men’s Basketball at #5 Texas (February 20th)
January was a rollercoaster ride for the #11 West Virginia men’s basketball team. The Mountaineers started the month with one win and two losses before they had to take a break due to three games being postponed because of coronavirus issues. WVU resumed play and gained two wins over Kansas State and #10 Texas Tech before losing to Florida in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Mountaineers are now 2-6 in the challenge, despite being favored in six of those eight games. Things will not be getting any easier for WVU as it resumes conference play. The Mountaineers have six games against ranked Big 12 opponents this month, including this matchup with #5 Texas. The Longhorns devasted WVU in their first game when Texas guard Andrew Jones hit a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left to help his team win by two. Hopefully, the Mountaineers can avenge that loss when they travel to Austin later this month. This rematch will be nationally televised on ABC.
2. #4 Rifle at #2 Kentucky (February 13th)
The #4 West Virginia rifle team is off to a great start this year, despite setbacks caused by the Mountaineer athletic department deciding to delay the start of the team’s season until January even though almost all of its peers started competing in the fall. WVU is currently 7-0, with its most recent victory being over #3 Ole Miss. Junior Jared Eddy stepped up for the team this season and recently matched the WVU school record in smallbore after he shot a 595. He also tied the smallbore standing record with a 199. The Mountaineers have one more regular season match remaining and it is against #2 Kentucky, the only team that defeated them last year before postseason competition was canceled due to the coronavirus. WVU will also compete in an NCAA Qualifying Match and the Great American Rifle Conference Championships later this month. If the Mountaineers can win this match against the Wildcats and complete an undefeated regular season, it could help them gain momentum for postseason play as they go for the program’s 20th national championship.
1. #11 Men’s Basketball vs #2 Baylor (February 15th)
Much like the women’s basketball team, the WVU men’s team has been led by a dynamic duo this season. Sophomore guard Miles “Deuce” McBride has been electric this year. Not only has Deuce been clutch when the Mountaineers need him, he is also leading the team with 15.4 points and 4.5 assists per game. In the post, junior Derek Culver has been a beast. Culver is averaging a double-double with 14.1 points and a team-high 10.3 rebounds per game. Deuce and Culver will both have to step up when WVU has back-to-back games against #2 Baylor. The undefeated Bears have been unstoppable this year and there has been discussion about them potentially staying undefeated for the remainder of the regular season. The Mountaineers’ first opportunity to stop that from happening will be on February 15th in Morgantown. This game will be nationally televised on ESPN, but hopefully WVU will continue to allow a limited number of fans to attend home games so the Mountaineers can gain some sort of a home court advantage in this COVID-riddled season.
Be sure to tune in to support the Mountaineers in these big games throughout the month. And let us know what other games WVU fans should mark on their calendars.