Mountaineers take on Kentucky with NCAA title already secured

West Virginia hoists the 2015 NCAA Championship trophy in Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska - The University of West Virginia takes on the University of Kentucky Wildcats this evening at the Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, tonight. Despite the bravado of freshman guard Daxter Miles and his prediction of the Wildcats ending the season this evening at 36-1, experts say there's a better chance of finding life on Mars. But even if that happens (the Kentucky win not the life on Mars), West Virginia would leave the arena ahead of Kentucky in the 2015 NCAA title race.

How's that? Because they won the NCAA Rifle Championships less than two weeks ago at the University of Alaska's Patty Center.

More on West Virginia's 2015 NCAA Rifle Championships win ...

Petersen's legendary sense of humor crosses his passion for firearms collecting with this Model 21

Robert Petersen Model 21 double rifle by Tony Galazan on display at the National Firearms Museum

Fairfax, Virginia - If you set out to commission an entirely custom firearm, what would you choose? Would you engrave it? Ok, of course you would, but what would you choose for the engraving? Many firearms collectors own pieces commemorating their specific interests and famed collector Robert Petersen was no different.

The subject of this week's Curator's Corner on NRA News doesn't have a purpose that is out of the ordinary for firearms enthusiasts living out in the country, but its decor is what sets it apart.

More on Robert Petersen's scaled down Model 21 on Curator's Corner ...

Sophomore Cornhusker waits to shoot the good shot in NCAA finals

Nebraska's Rachel Martin in the NCAA Smallbore Rifle Championships
Nebraska's Rachel Martin in the NCAA Smallbore Rifle Championships

Fairbanks, Alaska - Rachel Martin never wanted to learn how to shoot. But thanks to a little prodding from dad, she eventually found a passion for the sport. A passion that brought her the 2015 NCAA National Smallbore Rifle Championship.

“It’s a little overwhelming right now,” she exhaled after winning the title.

More on Rachel Martin's 2015 NCAA Smallbore Rifle Championship ...

Shots of the shots and the shooters who shot them

NCAA Rifle competitors shoot from the standing position at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska - All that's left for Day One at the 2015 NCAA Rifle Championships is the crowning of the champ. That should take place in about an hour or so. By then, the eight individuals who fired the highest scores of the day will gather once again to fire for the 2015 smallbore crown.

But those eight only represent a fraction of those who took to the range today. 17% to be exact as 47 shooters took to the line and fired away. So with a bit more success than others, some with a malfunction or two, and some that just couldn't bring the magic.

See shots from Day One of the NCAA Rifle Championships in Fairbanks ...

University of West Virginia feeling March Madness in frigid Fairbanks

Prone shooters at the NCAA Rifle Championships

Fairbanks, Alaska - In a move reminiscent of their 2014 national rifle title run, the West Virginia Mountaineers head into the final relay of the NCAA Smallbore Rifle Championships with a ten 10 point lead. It's a comfortable lead considering that West Virginia and the teams nipping at their heels - Nebraska and Texas Christian University - each have one competitor left to fire.

"Ten points is a lot to make up with one shooter," said one official. "It can happen, but I wouldn't hold my breath."

More on the third round of the NCAA Smallbore Rifle Championships ...

Olympic Gold Medalist Jamie Gray shares preparation secrets at Smallbore Championshipos

Fairbanks, Alaska - Olympic Gold Medal winner Jamie Gray meets with fans at the 2015 NCAA Rifle Championships in Alaska As the second relay of the day comes to a close, Murray State’s Ben Estes has all but guaranteed a spot in the 2015 NCAA Smallbore Rifle Finals. Also in the all but guaranteed group is Ryan Anderson of Alaska and Rachel Martin of Nebraska.

Though their first round scores are impressive, they are by no means an indication of how these competitors will perform in the finals.

“You need to be prepared for the finals like it’s a whole new match,” explained Olympic Gold Medalist Jamie Gray. “It’s more difficult for those who shot in the first relay because by the time the finals start it’s almost 12 hours since you shot. That’s a lot of down time.”

Gray, a University of Alaska alum and two time Olympian (Gold at the 2012 Games in London), was kind enough to explain the process between earning a spot in the finals and actually competing in the finals.

As she explained, competitors have a number of approaches when it comes to dealing with down time. Some sit in the stands to encourage teammates, some catch up on homework, some nap, some eat, and some just hang out. But according to Gray, the main things you need to do is plan.

More on how to prepare for the NCAA Finals ...

Top eight scores of the day to shoot for the national smallbore rifle title

Phillips and Anderson taking aim at NCAA Rifle Championships in Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska - Competitors depart the University of Alaska’s Patty Center range covered in smiles, frowns, and stares as blank as the scores on their sheets. Transfixed on the targets resting silently down range, they’re left to wonder what happened.

An entire season lurched to an end in the blink of an eye. Left to ask, “what was I thinking? What gust of wind or trick of fate took hold when the trigger was pulled.” Pulled that fateful time when the shot left as a ten and landed as an eight.

More on the first round of the NCAA Smallbore Rifle Championships ...

Competitors begin their quest for the 2015 NCAA Rifle Championships

Flying into Fairbanks, Alaska for the NCAA Rifle Championships

Fairbanks, Alaksa - I’ve been 30,000 feet over Alaska for about two hours now. One more and we’re on the ground in Fairbanks. My first time in 49th State.

A quick glance outside a properly scuffed Alaska Air 737 window reveals towering mountains sprinkled with snow. Tiny specs of gray and green poke their way through the white blankets in a gasping effort to bake in the seldom seen sun.

More on the road to the NCAA Rifle Championships ...

Huskers rifle team shooting for first in NCAA National Championships

The all-female Nebraska Rifle Team
The University of Nebraska's Rifle Team.

Lincoln, Nebraska - While most college fans are gearing up for a run at the hardwood, a carefully selected handful of college teams are readying for another championship - the Rifle Championship.

Taking place at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' E.F. Horton Rifle Range and Patty Center, the Elite Eight is made of teams from schools such as West Virginia, Kentucky, TCU, and the University of Nebraska.

More on Nebraska's bid for the NCAA Championships ...

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