MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No March memories will be made this year, but NCAA tournament history is full of memorable moments for Mountaineer basketball.
Given the shortage of current games to watch, now is the perfect time to look back at West Virginia’s top tournament showings.
We will provide a round-by-round synopsis of the best games. After starting with WVU’s four most memorable first-round games, it’s time to take a look at Round 2.
4. West Virginia 94, Marshall 71 (March 18, 2018) — San Diego
A 23-point blowout typically would not make for a memorable moment, but in this case the opponent changes the calculus.
As long as Bob Huggins and Dan D’Antoni are in charge of their respective programs, this game figures to be the final meeting between the Mountaineers and Thundering Herd on a basketball court. The pregame sniping between the two programs ended up being a lot more interesting than the game itself, which was dominated by West Virginia from the start.
Jevon Carter poured 28 points on the Herd, hitting 5 of his 7 three-point attempts. Lamont West came off the bench for a double-double with 18 points and 10 boards.
WVU finished 12 of 25 from behind the three-point line.
Because of the cancelation of this year’s NCAA tournament, this remains West Virginia’s most recent win in the tourney — and, of course, Marshall’s most recent loss.
3. West Virginia 73, Duke 67 (March 22, 2008) — Washington, D.C.
To borrow a phrase from another Jim Nantz production, most of the nation tuning in every March to root for the team playing Duke is a tradition unlike any other.
In 2008, that honor went to the Mountaineers as Huggins reached the Sweet 16 in his first season at his alma mater.
Led by Joe Alexander’s 22 points and 11 rebounds, seventh-seeded West Virginia rallied from a halftime deficit with a 44-point second half. It was a very lucrative showing for Alexander, who stunningly parlayed that performance into becoming the No. 8 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Joe Mazzula nearly managed a triple-double for the Mountaineers, finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists off the bench.
2. West Virginia 75, Cincinnati 74 (March 14, 1998) — Boise, Idaho
There were some serious circle of life vibes in this one.
Gale Catlett was Cincinnati’s coach before being hired by West Virginia in 1978. The arrival of Catlett was bad news for Joedy Gardner’s staff, which included a young graduate assistant named Bob Huggins.
Exactly 20 years later, Catlett was still in Morgantown while Huggins was turning his old Cincinnati program into a national power. Heading into the ’98 tourney, the Bearcats had reached the Elite Eight three times in the previous six seasons.
The second-seeded Bearcats were heavy favorites against the 10th-seeded Mountaineers, who had dispatched No. 7 Temple 82-52 in an absolutely stunning first-round blowout.
But West Virginia’s miracle tournament run continued when Jarrod West banked in a three-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining to lift the Mountaineers to the win. All 15 of his points came from beyond the arc.
WVU’s run ended against eventual national runner-up Utah in the Sweet 16.
It was magic in a bottle. The Mountaineers would not reach the tournament again until 2005.
For the Bearcats, the shocking early exit foreshadowed the rest of Huggins’ tenure. Cincinnati only advanced to the Sweet 16 once more in his remaining seven seasons with the program.
Huggs finally got his tournament groove back when he took over at West Virginia in 2007-08.
Oh, and remember the circle of life thing? It doesn’t just involve Huggins and Catlett.
West’s son, also named Jarrod, ended up playing for Marshall in the aforementioned 2018 second-round matchup between the Herd and Mountaineers.
1. West Virginia 111, Wake Forest 105, 2OT (March 19, 2005) – Cleveland, Ohio
This belongs on the short list for best second-round games of all-time, whether or not West Virginia was involved. Ten years after the fact, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer deemed it the best college basketball game ever played in Cleveland, and no one has threatened that mantle since.
Once again, the Mountaineers were a 7-seed playing a legitimate national title contender — second-seeded Wake Forest was led by dynamic point guard Chris Paul in what would be his final college game.
But the star of this game ended up being Cleveland-area native Mike Gansey, who scored 19 of his game-high 29 points in the two overtime periods.
That WVU made it as far as a first overtime felt unlikely when the Demon Deacons jumped to a comfy 50-37 halftime lead.
But behind a cavalcade of huge performances — 21 points from Tyrone Sally, 15 points and 10 rebounds from D’Or Fischer — the Mountaineers clawed back and then pulled away after Paul fouled out midway through the second overtime.
This was the tournament run that put West Virginia basketball back on the map, and the Wake Forest game was the most legendary piece in that journey.