Cover Photo: WVU Athletics
March Madness is officially upon us and the Mountaineers have made their way in. Time to make your brackets and spend the next month watching different games on every device you own. The question on all of our minds is how the Mountaineers will do this year.
The Mountaineers started off by digging themselves a major hole, beginning conference play with an 0-5 record. The biggest factor in these losses was the team’s inability to make free throws. As the season grew older, the free throw shooting improved, as did WVU’s record. West Virginia ended the regular season on a high note, picking up wins over Iowa State and No. 11 Kansas State. Those wins were off the heels of a two-point defeat to the Kansas Jayhawks at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, marking the closest WVU has come to winning in Lawrence. Twelve days later, WVU fell to Kansas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference tournament, 78-61. The loss brought West Virginia’s overall record to 19-14 heading into the Madness.
Despite finishing down in eighth place in the Big 12, the Mountaineers are a solid program that just happens to play in arguably college basketball’s most competitive circuit. West Virginia was under .500 (7-11) in conference play this season, but still managed to go 19-14 overall. This says a lot about the team as a whole. They are going into March Madness battle tested, and ready for whatever happens. The Maryland Terps aren’t an easy first opponent.Their defense allows just 63.2 points per game. A balanced scoring attack featuring four players averaging more than 11.0 points per game keeps opposing defenses on their toes. That balanced attack hasn’t seemed to matter over the last few weeks, however, as the Terps have struggled to consistently expose opposing defenses.
And we can’t forget about the women. West Virginia ended the season 19-11, and made a steady push late in the year by winning their final three regular season games. The Mountaineers defeated Kansas State and Oklahoma State and home before winning at Baylor to sweep the two season meetings with the Bears.A last-second, 62-61 loss in to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarterfinals seemed to put West Virginia’s NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy. But the Mountaineers pushed through and are facing the Arizona Wildcats this Friday, March 17th.
So what are my opinions about how far the Mountaineers? When it comes to the men, I feel like we will pull the upset against Maryland, but fall in the first 32 to the red-hot Alabama Crimson Tide. For the women, their current momentum will push them past Arizona, but will also fall in the first 32 to the No. 2 Terps.