When sports fans think of March, they think of March Madness. And while March Madness will be a big aspect of the month for West Virginia athletics, there are also 10 other Mountaineer teams playing besides the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Since so many WVU teams are competing this month, there are a lot of big games on the calendar, including seven teams in postseason play and seven regular season matchups against top 25 opponents. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top five games for Mountaineer athletics in March!
Honorable Mentions: #18 Women’s Basketball at #7 Baylor (March 8th) & #23 Baseball vs Kent State (March 5th-7th)
The #18 West Virginia women’s basketball team’s 11-game win streak came to an end in February, but the Mountaineers are still in a great position as they head into March. WVU will have a chance to end the regular season on a high note when it faces #7 Baylor. The Lady Bears just won their 11th straight game to push their record to 19-2 and help them claim their 11th straight Big 12 regular season championship. The Mountaineers are currently second in the conference behind BU, so a win in this road game could turn some heads, as the regular season wraps up. The game will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
The #23 West Virginia baseball team has struggled to start the 2021 season. The Mountaineers started the year by splitting a series, 2-2, at Georgia State, and they followed that performance by winning two out of three games at the Coastal Carolina Baseball Tournament. WVU defeated Kennesaw State and Bryant at the tournament and lost to the hosting Chanticleers. The good news for the Mountaineers is that they will be playing at home for the entire month of March. The first three of the 15 straight home games will be against Kent State. The home stretch is also exciting for WVU baseball fans because fan attendance is being allowed at a limited capacity. This series against the Golden Flashes will also be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
5. #4 Women’s Soccer vs #5 Duke (March 27th)
The #4 West Virginia women’ soccer team is preparing to return to regular season play after playing a conference-only schedule in the fall. The Mountaineers wrapped up Big 12 play in the fall with a 7-2 record, to finish second in the conference. They also earned a 3-0 win over Akron in their first spring exhibition. During the fall, WVU was led by midfielder Stefany Ferrer-vanGinkel. The Mountaineer senior had a team-high six goals, four of which were game winners. Junior forward Alina Stahl added three goals and one assist for WVU in conference play. The spring schedule features a handful of non-conference games. The biggest match remaining on the schedule looks to be this game against #5 Duke. The Blue Devils went 7-4-2 in ACC competition and reached their conference semifinals in the fall. A win in this match could help the Mountaineers build momentum as they head towards this spring’s rescheduled NCAA Tournament.
4. #10 Men’s Basketball vs #2 Baylor (March 2nd)
The rankings for both the West Virginia and Baylor men’s basketball teams are bound to change after the #10 Mountaineers ended February with a few wins and the #2 Bears ended the month with their first loss of the season. But no matter what rankings the teams receive for the first week of March, this will be a huge matchup and arguably the biggest of the regular season for WVU. The Mountaineers are currently on a three-game winning streak and only lost one game in February to #7 Oklahoma, 91-90 in overtime. WVU’s success has been led by sophomore guard Miles “Deuce” McBride and junior forward Derek Culver. Deuce is leading the team with 15.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. He is also the only Mountaineer averaging over 30 minutes per game. Culver is averaging a double-double with 15 points and a team-high 10.1 rebounds per game. WVU will need its two stars to do their thing in this huge Big 12 matchup against one of the best teams in the country. This game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
3. #18 Women’s Basketball at the Big 12 Championship (March 11th-14th) & NCAA Tournament (March 21st-April 4th)
Head coach Mike Carey and the WVU women’s basketball team have enjoyed a great season. Much of their success has been a result of Kysre Gondrezick’s leadership. The redshirt senior guard is leading the Mountaineers with 21 points, 4.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. Gondrezick has been helped by sophomore forward Esmery Martinez, who is averaging a double-double with 13.5 points and a team-high 12 rebounds per game. The way Gondrezick and Martinez have been a dominant duo this year is comparable to the success of Deuce McBride and Derek Culver on the men’s basketball team. Sophomore guard Kirsten Deans has provided a scoring boost for the Mountaineers, by averaging 13.5 points per game and shooting a team-high 43.3% from three-point range. WVU has not won the Big 12 Championship since 2017, but it is the only program to knock Baylor off of the top of the league in the past decade. This unusual COVID-riddled season could present WVU with an opportunity to reclaim the conference tournament title, which could also help the Mountaineers build momentum as they head into the NCAA Tournament.
2. #4 Rifle at the NCAA Championships (March 12th-13th)
This spring the #4 West Virginia rifle team has continued its dominance, despite facing a late start to the season. Virtually all of the other college rifle programs began competing in the fall, but that has not stopped the Mountaineers from competing at an elite level. WVU finished the regular season with a 7-1 record and won its 11th straight Great America Rifle Conference tournament title over the weekend. This tournament championship is the program’s 14th GARC title, which is the most championships in league history. Now that the Mountaineers have won another conference title, they are preparing for the NCAA Championships. WVU has been led by junior Jared Eddy and sophomore Calista Smoyer this season. Eddy is averaging a team-high aggregate of 1182.4, thanks to his 588.3 smallbore average, which is also a team-high. He also matched the WVU school record in smallbore earlier this season, after he shot a 595. Smoyer has stepped up for the Mountaineers in the air rifle portion of competitions this year. She is averaging 597 in air rifle, for an aggregate average of 1180.2. WVU will be going for its 20th national championship in program history this month, and its first title since 2017. The Mountaineers’ current mark of 19 national championships is the best in the nation, but reaching 20 will put WVU 10 titles ahead of the next best program.
1. #10 Men’s Basketball at the Big 12 Championship (March 10th-13th) & NCAA Tournament (March 18th-April 5th)
Since last summer, fans and analysts have been discussing the possibility of this WVU men’s basketball team making a run in the NCAA Tournament. Before the Mountaineers compete in the Big Dance, they will head to Kansas City for the Big 12 Championship. While many people consider the Big Ten to be the best conference in college basketball this season, the Big 12 is also in that conversation. The Big 12 currently has six ranked teams and is projected to have seven in the NCAA Tournament, which is the highest projected percentage of teams (70%) out of all college basketball conferences. So, the conference tournament could be just as competitive as the NCAA Tournament for the Mountaineers. If WVU is to make runs in both tournaments, their leaders, Deuce McBride and Derek Culver, will need some help. That’s where shooting guards Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil come in. Sherman is averaging 13 points per game and is shooting 36% from three-point range. He has also had three games with 20 or more points and has made three or more three-pointers in six games this season. McNeil is averaging 11.7 points per game and is shooting 39.6% from three. He has had four games where he scored over 20 points and has made three or more three-pointers in 10 games this year. These two shooters will be critical to WVU’s success during postseason play, and head coach Bob Huggins will rely on them to help Deuce and Culver carry the load offensively. If the Mountaineers get favorable matchups and their key players play to their potential, this could be a special month for the WVU men’s basketball team.
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.