Sports, Women's Basketball, WVU Sports

WVU matches up with Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament

MORGANTOWN — It is maybe somewhat fitting that in its 50th season of competition, the WVU women’s basketball team is about to participate in possibly the most historic NCAA tournament.

For the Mountaineers (24-7), that history could be seen up close and personal, providing WVU finds a way to beat ninth-seeded Princeton (25-4) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

A victory over the Tigers would likely set the Mountaineers up with Iowa star Caitlin Clark, the nation’s leading scorer and college basketball’s all-time leading scorer, in the second round on Monday.


“If we’re lucky enough to play that match-up, that will be special to play her on her home floor,” WVU head coach Mark Kellogg said. “It’s her last year, but she’s sold out every arena she’s played in. She has changed the game of women’s basketball. She is as special as it gets.”

But there is more to this women’s NCAA tourney than just Clark. It can be argued, that for the first time ever, the women’s tournament has the more recognizable players and better star power than the men’s tournament.

Former national player of the year Paige Bueckers is healthy once again and playing strong for 10th-ranked UConn.

LSU star Angel Reese, who is estimated to have made upwards of $3 million in NIL deals this season, has the Tigers in position to challenge for a second-consecutive national title.

USC freshman JuJu Watkins, already projected as the “next” Caitlin Clark, has the Trojans positioned as a No. 1 seed.

And they are all chasing after undefeated South Carolina, which is 133-3 over the last three seasons.

There will be more eyes on this women’s NCAA tournament, which already set a record with drawing 9.9 million TV viewers during LSU’s victory against Iowa in the championship game a year ago.

As a program on the rise under Kellogg, and with a budding star of its own in junior guard J.J. Quinerly, this tournament could be WVU’s opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle.

Outside of Morgantown and the Big 12, few have seen what the Mountaineers and Quinerly can do.

This will be WVU’s first nationally televised game of the season, after spending the first four months of the season only appearing on the Big 12’s streaming service on ESPN+.

“It can be (a big moment) for J.J. or for anyone on our team or our program that we’re trying to build here,” Kellogg said. “Now you get the national spotlight, you’re on national TV. There are people who don’t watch basketball, but they watch during March Madness. J.J. has a opportunity, all of our kids do. It’s all on the table right now. That’s what makes it a great time of year and our sport is growing.”

A quick exit would put an end to that opportunity, and Princeton is not a team that goes away quietly.

Under head coach Carla Berube, who played at UConn under head coach Geno Auriemma in the 1990s, the Tigers have reached the second round of the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons.

Princeton, too, has a star guard in Kaitlyn Chen, who shoots nearly 50% from the floor, while sophomore guard Madison St. Rose averages 14.5 points per game and leads the team with 46 3-pointers.

As for Quinerly, she played in the Big 12 tournament with a brace on her right knee, which she injured at the end of the regular season.

Having a week to rest between the conference tourney and the NCAAs, Kellogg said, has been a big help to Quinerly.

“I don’t know if anyone is completely healthy at this time of the year,” Kellogg said. “As far as the brace, that’s up to her and the medical team. She’s trying to push for not wearing it and would like to get out of that as soon as possible. I’ll leave that up to those guys to see if she needs it or not.”


WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, Iowa
TV: ESPN2 (Comcast 28, HD 851; DirecTV 209; DISH 143)