West Virginia vs. Michigan: Complete Game Preview and Prediction
The No. 3 Michigan Wolverines are off to their best start since the 1988-89 season, which ended with a national title run in the NCAA tournament, and will take their undefeated record to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to square off with head coach John Beilein's former team, the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Head coach Bob Huggins is trying to get the Mountaineers back on track after a 4-4 start to the 2012-13 season, and an upset victory over Michigan could propel West Virginia through the rest of nonconference play and into the Big 12 Conference season with a head of confidence.
Click ahead for a complete preview and prediction of this Saturday's tilt between the Wolverines and Mountaineers in New York!
Who: West Virginia Mountaineers (4-4) vs. No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (10-0)
When: Saturday, December 15 at 8 p.m. (EST)
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
What Happened in Michigan's Last Game
To the surprise of just about everyone sitting in the Crisler Center or watching at home, the Michigan Wolverines got off to a slow start against the Binghamton Bearcats, and actually trailed 10-8 with 12:49 remaining in the first half.
However, Michigan's shooting picked up; Jordan Morgan, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary made some easy baskets inside thanks to great passing from Nik Stauskas and Trey Burke, which helped the Wolverines go on a 26-4 run before heading into the locker room at halftime.
Burke and Stauskas continued to knock down shot after shot in the second half, and were the only two Michigan players to finish in double digits with 19 and 12 points, respectively.
The two also combined to make 7-of-14 three-point attempts in the Wolverines' 67-39 rout of the Bearcats.
Junior shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. fell in love with the three-point shot early in the game and never got into a groove offensively. Hardaway only managed to score nine points and went 3-of-13 from the field, including a woeful 2-of-9 performance from behind the arc.
Robinson turned in a very quiet six points and five rebounds, while Michigan's trio of big men combined for 16 points and 14 rebounds. McGary pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
What Happened in West Virginia's Last Game
The West Virginia Mountaineers were above .500 and back on track to be contenders in the Big 12 Conference after an awful start to the 2012-13 season, but head coach Bob Huggins' team took a step back on Tuesday night in a 60-56 road loss to the Duquesne Dukes.
Although the Mountaineers were able to race out to a 25-10 lead early in the first half, poor shooting doomed West Virginia in the second half as it has in several other games this year.
The Mountaineers shot just 28 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes of play, and dropped down to No. 311 in the country in field-goal percentage. As a team, West Virginia is only shooting 39 percent through eight games.
The loss snapped the Mountaineers' three-game winning streak, and the Dukes picked up their first victory over West Virginia since 1993.
Sophomore guard Juwan Staten led the Mountaineers with 13 points, two rebounds and four assists, while reserve guards Matt Humphrey and Gary Browne poured in 10 points apiece.
Key Player for Michigan: Tim Hardaway Jr.
This spot could arguably go to Trey Burke or Nik Stauskas every single game, but since those two have been fairly consistent throughout the Michigan Wolverines' undefeated start, this Saturday's key player has to be Tim Hardaway Jr.
First off, Hardaway is going to need to regain the shooting confidence he had early in the season when the Miami, Fla. native shot over 58 percent from the floor in four of Michigan's first five games.
Hardaway is coming off of a nine-point effort against the Binghamton Bearcats and will need to create some easy shots for himself early in the game in order to get in rhythm.
The 6'6", 205-pounder has not made more than three field goals in the Wolverines' last three contests and taking too many three-point shots quite often gets Hardaway's shooting percentage into muddy waters.
There is nothing wrong with taking a couple of open treys when you're as good of a shooter as Hardaway is, but the junior does his best work when he is taking defenders to the basket or pulling up from inside the arc.
To clarify, Hardaway needs to be more aggressive like he was against the N.C. State Wolfpack, Kansas State Wildcats and Pittsburgh Panthers.
In those three games, Hardaway converted 20 of 27 two-point attempts compared to 3-of-19 from three-point range.
If Hardaway is driving to the hoop and throwing down some dunks, the Wolverines should have no problem dispatching the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Key Player for West Virginia: Juwan Staten
One of, if not the only bright spot so far this season for the West Virginia Mountaineers has been the play of sophomore guard Juwan Staten, who currently leads the team with 10 points per game to go along with three rebounds and two assists per contest.
Staten has reached double digits in five of West Virginia's last six games and will need to play well enough to garner some extra attention from the Michigan Wolverines defense that is holding opponents to just 41 percent shooting.
The Dayton, Ohio product does much of his damage from inside the three-point line and will look to free up other players like junior center Aaric Murray and senior forward Deniz Kilicli.
Several other Mountaineers will have to play lights out in order for West Virginia to pull off the upset of the year against the Wolverines on Saturday, but it will be crucial for Staten to get going early in order for his teammates to get some open looks.
The Michigan Wolverines are off to their best start since Glen Rice led the Maize and Blue to the 1988-89 NCAA national title, and the West Virginia Mountaineers are set up to be victim No. 11 for Beilein's talented bunch.
Shooting and rebounding are two areas of the game that great teams tend to dominate, and the Wolverines stack up well against the Mountaineers in both of those departments.
Michigan is shooting 50.7 percent from the field this season, while the Mountaineers are making less than 40 percent of their shots.
The Wolverines have also made huge strides in their team rebounding, which is currently ranked No. 87 among all college basketball teams with 38.1 rebounds per contest, but West Virginia is pulling down over 40 rebounds per game.
Trey Burke is primed for yet another big game, Stauskas should continue to knock down three-pointers and Hardaway Jr. will be on a mission to bounce back from an off night in Michigan's last victory.
Look for West Virginia to hang around early until Murray gets into foul trouble, or the Mountaineers simply stop making shots like they have all year.
Michigan should win this one convincingly, though, and will use a big run late in the first half to pull away in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Prediction: Michigan by 15