The Backyard Brawl headlines this month’s biggest matchups!
November is set to be a big month for West Virginia athletics. There are currently eight matchups on the calendar where a Mountaineer team will be facing a ranked opponent and there could be more depending on how some early-season basketball events play out. Let’s take a look at WVU’s top games in November.
Honorable Mention: Wrestling at #5 NC State (November 21st)
The West Virginia wrestling team is starting the 2021-22 season just outside of the top 25, but it has four wrestlers that are ranked nationally in their individual weight classes. Redshirt senior Killian Cardinale looks to be a top 10 wrestler in the 125-pound division and sophomore Peyton Hall is preseason top 20 at 165 pounds. Fifth-year senior Luke Karam and sophomore Michael Wolfgram are also expected to be top wrestlers in their weight classes. This matchup with #5 NC State will show the Mountaineers where they stand nationally, and a team win could push them into the top 25.
5. Men’s Basketball at the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic (November 18th-21st)
Head coach Bob Huggins and the West Virginia men’s basketball team have a unique roster this season. The Mountaineers have seven newcomers, but three of them are fifth-year senior transfers. WVU is also returning experienced players, with fifth-year seniors Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien, as well as senior guard Sean McNeil.
Huggins will need the veterans to step up when they travel to South Carolina for the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic. The Mountaineers will face Elon in the first game of this early-season tournament and will face either Ole Miss or Marquette in the next game. The final matchup could have WVU facing #23 St. Bonaventure, Boise State, Clemson, or Temple.
4. #19 Women’s Basketball at the St. Pete Showcase (November 25th & 27th)
The West Virginia women’s basketball team is coming into this season at #19 nationally and it returns four of its five main starters from last year. Junior forward Esmery Martinez headlines the starting lineup, after averaging a double-double last season with 13.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. She is joined in the post by senior Kari Niblack. WVU’s starting guards are senior Madisen Smith, junior KK Deans, former Mississippi State transfer Jayla Hemingway. The Mountaineers have three fifth-year seniors, three seniors, and three juniors, which gives head coach Mike Carey plenty of experience on the court. WVU’s first real test of the season will be the St. Pete Showcase in Florida. The Mountaineers will face Purdue in the first game and will then play #16 Florida State or BYU in the second game.
3. #3 Rifle vs #4 TCU (November 6th)
The Mountaineers have started the 2021-22 rifle season with a perfect 4-0 record. All four of West Virginia’s win have been over ranked opponents and the excellent shooting has the team at #3 in the national rankings. Sophomores Tal Engler and Molly McGhin have led the Mountaineers this season, both averaging 1183 aggregate scores. McGhin and senior Verena Zaisberger share the team’s best smallbore average at 588, while Engler’s 596.25 average in air rifle leads the team. The Mountaineers’ tough matchups continue this month with all five of their matches being against ranked opponents. Luckily for WVU, four of those matchups will be at home in Morgantown, but the toughest one will be a neutral-site shootout in Fort Wayne, Indiana, against the #4 Horned Frogs. TCU is also undefeated this season and has been right behind the Mountaineers in the national rankings for most of the year. Hopefully WVU will continue its winning streak in this match.
2. Football vs #11 Oklahoma State (November 6th)
West Virginia’s most recent win over then-#22 Iowa State has restored the faith of many fans to “Trust the Climb.” The WVU defense continued its season-long trend of keeping the Mountaineers in the game and the offense showed improvement, most notably with the offensive line play, which helped the team escape with a 38-31 win over the Cyclones. The improvements on the o-line have given redshirt senior quarterback Jarret Doege more time to throw, leading to a season-high 370 passing yards against ISU. The running game has also benefited from the improved blocking. WVU had a season-high 229 rushing yards in its win over TCU two weeks ago.
The Mountaineers will need to build off of their improvements if they want to continue their winning streak this week against #11 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are 7-1 this season and have aspirations to make a New Year’s Six bowl game. The WVU offense will have to play another excellent game this week if it wants to score on the top-10 OSU defense. This game will be nationally televised on ESPN and will feature the jersey number retirement of legendary Mountaineer quarterback Major Harris.
1. Men’s Basketball vs Pitt (November 12th)
The WVU basketball team coasted to a 74-59 win over Akron in its preseason charity exhibition last week. Fifth-year senior Taz Sherman went off in the first half, scoring 20 points in the first 20 minutes of the game. He would finish with 29 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes on the court. Fellow guard Sean McNeil also finished in double-digits, with 10 points, but struggled early with many of his shots going in-and-out. The team seemed to let off the gas in the last 15 minutes of play, partially because Sherman was out to rest and avoid injury, so coach Huggins was somewhat dissatisfied with the overall performance after the game. The Mountaineers will start the regular season by hosting Oakland, which will give them another opportunity to clean up their play against a lesser opponent, but then they will have the biggest game of the month: The Backyard Brawl. Pittsburgh went 10-12 last year, compared to WVU’s 19-10 record, and the Panthers’ lone postseason game was a loss to Miami in the ACC Tournament. The Mountaineers lead the all-time series against Pitt, 99–88, including a four-game winning streak and a 68-53 win in their last brawl two years ago.
WVU fans are already excited to host their biggest basketball rival and the Coliseum will undoubtedly be an electric atmosphere, which will be a fun experience for the team’s newcomers. Getting the 100th win over Pitt could give the Mountaineers momentum early in the season and it is crucial that they defend their home court this year. The Backyard Brawl will be televised on ESPNU.
Be sure to tune in to support WVU for these games and let us know what other matchups you’re looking forward to this month!