After a cakewalk game on Tuesday night against Binghamton, Michigan heads back to New York on Saturday night to face the last remaining threat to its unblemished record before beginning Big Ten play. Just three weeks ago, Michigan visited the Big Apple and captured the NIT Season Tip-Off with wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas State. Now, the Wolverines head to the borough of Brooklyn to face John Beilein’s former team, West Virginia, in the sparkling new Barclay’s Center.
The game is the main event of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival with the undercards being Princeton vs Fordham and St. John’s vs St. Francis.
West Virginia comes in at 4-4 with only one win over a team from a major conference – a one-point win over Virginia Tech. Big wins over Marist and VMI and a 10-point victory over Marshall are the only other games in the win column. The Mountaineers were blown out by Gonzaga to open the season and lost close games to Davidson and Oklahoma before getting beat by Duquesne on Tuesday.
Bob Huggins’ squad is led by guard Juwan Staten and forward Deniz Kilicli. Staten is the only Mountaineer averaging in double figures at 10.6 points per game. He was held scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting in the season opener and had a season high of 18 against VMI. The University of Dayton transfer isn’t a long-range shooter, having attempted just five threes all season and made none. He’s shooting nearly 40 percent from two. Kilicli averages 9.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, both of which rank second on the team. At 6’9″, 260, the Turkey native has a lot of ability. He scored 21 against Marshall on 19 shots, but also has four games this season with six points or fewer.
Center Aaric Murray averages 9.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was one of the only Mountaineers to have success against Gonzaga, scoring 14 points, but was limited to just two points against Duquesne on Tuesday. Despite being a center, he has the ability to step out and shoot the three, and though he has only attempted six all season, it is more than Staten, and he has made three of them. He’s also efficient from the field, shooting over 52 percent.
Joining Staten in the backcourt are sophomores Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds, who average 8.5 and 7.1 points per game, respectively. Browne had a season high of 13 against Oklahoma and shot 1-of-10 against Virginia Tech. He’s good for a few three-point attempts per game, but has made more than one just once. Hinds has scored in double figures just once all season, when he had 11 points against Marist, but likes to shoot the three, albeit not very successfully. He tossed up six threes against Gonzaga, making one, and has hit just 6-of-22 on the season.
As a team, West Virginia is one of the worst shooting teams in the country at 39 percent. The number drops to just 26.4 percent from three-point range. Where the Mountaineers excel is on the glass, ranking 23rd nationally with 41.6 rebounds per game. That will be an important area to watch, as Michigan has dominated the glass all season, especially on the offensive end. If West Virginia is able to limit Michigan’s second chance opportunities, Michigan will need to shoot better than it has in the past couple of games if it wants to avoid a dog fight.
It will be a physical affair and test Michigan’s big men, but shouldn’t be a game to worry about. It will give the Wolverines a good test before the grueling Big Ten Conference schedule beings.