December 11, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein during the game against the Binghamton Bearcats at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Basketball: West Virginia vs. Michigan -- Brooklyn Winter Hoops Festival -- Preview

Posted at 6:00am — 12/15/2012

Michigan Basketball: West Virginia vs. Michigan — Brooklyn Winter Hoops Festival — Preview

Will Brutal Ball Prevail?

Basketball junkies around the nation are probably looking at the weekend’s schedule and thinking, ”Now this game could be really interesting.” While not exactly polar opposites, the two teams have more not in common than in common.

The coaches, Beilein and Huggins, will never be mistaken for identical twins. Coach Beilein is the professor type; he values sophistication and intellect in an offense. Coach Huggins is blue collar and wants his players to just get the ball inside and score in whatever manner it takes. Coach Beilein is a coach of near infinite patience, perhaps too much at times. Coach Huggins has never counted patience as a necessary trait that must be given at all times. Coach Huggins team will ground and pound on defense and on the board. Coach Beilein’s teams will let the opposition take the easy shot and not put the player on the deck to compound mistakes. As a result the two teams bring different player types and styles to the stage.

Michigan is 9-0 and West Virginia is 4-4. Do not let that record discrepancy lead to faulty assumptions about the end result Saturday. Huggins will have his guys ready and things could get a little rough. Heading into the Big Twelve schedule, this is West Virginia’s best chance to right the ship and score some resume points for March

This version of Mountaineer basketball has had a rough start. The team was absolutely taken apart by the structured Gonzaga offense. Gonzaga is at least a top 20 team and may be a top 10-15 caliber group. West Virginia’s only real impressive win this season is against Virginia Tech, hence the urgency to take down Michigan.

Bob Huggins teams are known for toughness, pressure, and defense, but only infrequently for running a smooth, systematic offense. West Virginia has struggled on offense so far this season shooting only 39% from the field and averaging less than 70 points a game. What the Mountaineers can do is hit the boards and rebound. If Michigan plays soft or is ineffective getting to the ball and holding on to it, trouble for Michigan could result. This is not a vintage ultra-athletic Huggins team however, and the Mountaineers will rely on guts, grit, and the ability to hang tough.

The Mountaineers have only two players averaging double figures, junior Juwan Staten and senior Deniz Kilicli from Turkey. Aaric Murray a 6’ 10” junior and Kilicli can hit the offensive boards and Michigan needs to be ready. Murray is hitting near double figures and must be accounted for in Michigan’s game preparation.

December 11, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (3) moves the ball against the Binghamton Bearcats at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

So, what is Coach Huggins thinking about game preparation? Coach knows that Michigan has a reputation for being soft and not boxing out well. He can see how easy it is to get the ball inside. Those characteristics play into the bread and butter of the mountaineer offense; there are no fancy courses or desert on the table. This is where Coach will attack. Coach Huggins also knows that letting the Michigan backcourt control the game and run wild is Dunkirk time. He will plan to bump and disrupt the guards, hoping that the whistles are pretty quite on Saturday night. Coach Huggins may want to take some air out of the ball to help the Mountaineer backcourt, but the danger here is West Virginia reverts to bad shots or forcing the ball inside when time is running low.

What is Coach Beilein thinking about game preparation? He knows that Coach Huggins and West Virginia are not coming for a mellow Mozart symphony, like say #29, but instead may try to craft “The Ring of the Wolverines” taking Michigan’s early season gold and mercilessly pounding it to a rugged, ugly finished product. Coach Beilein will preach poise and hopefully Wild Thing McGary and Jordan Morgan don’t fall for the bait and play out of character. This does not mean the inside guys can sit back and enjoy a day at the beach, far from this scenario.

Coach Beilein knows that offenses that force defenders to spread out and play in space, and have options that force choices out of the defenders have given West Virginia some trouble. Coach Huggins’ players will have choices; follow the guards inside or defend the perimeter hard and rely on the big guy inside to swat Trey Burke shots away.

December 11, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) takes a three point shot against the Binghamton Bearcats in the first half at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Beilein knows that he has a big advantage in the backcourt and if the shots fall in Brooklyn that advantage will pay off. If the shots do not fall, then it will be anyone’s game. Michigan played poorly against Binghamton, in part due to the lack of discipline regarding shot selection and not getting the ball inside enough. West Virginia will guard well in the half court game and it will be up to the Michigan players to force West Virginia into choices that could yield offensive opportunities. To do this Michigan would be well served to show the inside game early to collapse some of the perimeter guarding.

Defensively, Coach Beilein knows that one way West Virginia can hang around is by outworking the Wolverines on the boards. When a team shoots only 39% then a necessity is hitting the boards or hitting threes. Michigan is still soft on three-point defense and has given the last two opponents better results than normal from behind the arc. Michigan still plays off and begs good shooters to shoot. West Virginia does not have great shooters, but neither did Binghamton.

If Michigan can force West Virginia to take tough threes, the reward could be substantial, with the missed shot leading to transition basketball, a part of the game that favors Michigan.

Michigan will simply need to score off the usual options and defend and rebound well enough to keep West Virginia from having a big offensive day.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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