Will West Virginia Universities Dance Their Way Into March Madness?
March Madness is right around the corner, and West Virginia sports fans may be looking to place a wager or two when the action tips off, no doubt that will include plenty of bracket pools friends.
Now, with West Virginia sports betting legal in the state, it is easy to get out that friendly mobile device and make a wager. Those in the Mountain State may even want to drop a few dollars on their home state teams.
Here’s a look at the March Madness history of some of WV’s best-known college teams – West Virginia University and Marshall – complete with how they have fared this season and their chances of joining the Big Dance.
WVU and March Madness
The Mountaineers currently compete in the Big 12 and have an excellent record of success on the hardwood since the university began playing in the modern era of collegiate basketball in 1955. That record includes 13 conference tournament championships and 29 appearances in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Two of those March Madness appearances stand out, with the team making Final Four appearances. The 1959 team was the most successful in the school’s history. The Mountaineers were led by NBA legend Jerry West and ended the season with a perfect 11-0 conference record.
After winning the Southern Conference tournament for the third year in a row, the Mountaineers won the East Region in the NCAA tournament thanks in large part to the efforts by West. In wins over St. Joseph‘s in the semi-finals, and then Boston University in the finals, West scored a total of 69 points.
The Final Four was the deepest the school had ever gone in the tournament, and West wasn’t finished making it a magical season. In its next matchup against Louisville, West added 38 points and snagged 15 rebounds in a 94-79 victory.
The team was one game away from the NCAA national championship but lost in a heartbreaker to California, 71-70. West was named the tournament MVP after adding another 28 points and 11 rebounds in the final. A year later, West led the team to the semi-finals of the East Region but lost by one point to New York University.
The team wouldn’t make another Final Four appearance until 2010 when the Mountaineers captured the school’s first Big East tournament championship. The team rolled through its region, capped by a 73-66 over No. 1-ranked Kentucky.
In the Final Four matchup against Duke, the Mountaineers lost 78–57 with the Blue Devils going on to win the title. Key players from that team, Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks were both drafted into the NBA.
WVU’s 2018-2019 NCAA basketball season
The Mountaineers have struggled in the 2018-19 college basketball season. As of Feb. 7, the team was 10-13 and 2-8 in conference play. While going 8-4 at home, the road has been a struggle, 0-6. While a Big 12 title and NCAA tournament appearance seem unlikely, there are still several conference games left on the schedule.
One highlight of the season for WVU came on Jan. 19. The Mountaineers knocked off the No. 7-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 65-64. However, the victory was short-lived. A week later, they fell to No. 1 Tennessee in Knoxville in a blow-out, 83-66. Senior forward Esa Ahmad (618) and junior forward Wesley Harris (533) lead the team in scoring.
Marshall University and March Madness
The Thundering Herd also has a deep history on the court with basketball played at the university since 1907 and eight conference titles. The Herd won the NAIA National Championship in 1947, a predecessor to the NCAA tournament.
When it comes to the modern era of basketball, the team has played in the tournament six times:
- 1956 (Lost in the first round to Morehead State)
- 1972 (Lost in the first round to Southwestern Louisana)
- 1984 (Lost in the first round to Villanova)
- 1985 (Lost in the first round to VCU)
- 1987 (Lost in the first round to TCU)
- 2018 (Lost in the second round to WVU)
The NCAA vacated the ‘87 entry into the tournament, however, after the NCAA imposed a two-year probation on the program for 10 rules violations including giving of cash and gifts to former basketball players.
The best of those appearances came in 2018 as the Thundering Herd advanced to the second round for the first time in the history of the school, upsetting Wichita State 81-75 before falling to West Virginia.
The Herd has produced a few notable players through the years including NBA Hall of Famer Hal Greer, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers and made 10 straight NBA All-Star games. He led the team to a title in 1967.
Additionally, Mike D’Antoni (1970-73) had a 17-year pro career and is now the head coach of the Houston Rockets. He was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2017.
Marshall’s 2018-2019 NCAA basketball season
After the exciting 2018 season and a first-round victory, Marshall was 13-10 as of Feb. 7, including 6-4 in conference play. The team was 9-2 at home, but 4-8 on the road.
The team is still battling with plenty of games left on the schedule, with another NCAA tournament a possibility. Senior guards John Elmore and C.J. Burks lead the team in scoring.
Betting on March Madness in West Virginia
An appearance at the NCAA tournament by one of WV’s Universities is far from a guarantee. Sports betting on March Madness for the first time will surely have a positive impact on WV sportsbooks.
Having a home team at the Big Dance, however, would likely provide a more significant boost to WV sports betting. To get some skin in the game, sports bettors in West Virginia can head to one of the state’s five sportsbooks:
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort
- The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
- Mardi Gras Casino and Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel
Additionally, WV mobile sports betting via the BetLucky Sportsbook is a convenient option to place your wagers easily. There is some speculation that DraftKings Sportsbook will be launching in WV sometime in February, just in time for March Madness.