It looked as though West Virginia would carry a four-game winning streak into its game against #3 Michigan on Saturday.
Leading Duquesne by 15 with less than 20 minutes to go, the Mountaineers were in good shape to gather another win and prepare for one of the nation's best teams. Things unraveled, though. The offense couldn't find points, and the Dukes stormed back to earn a 60-56 win.
Now, instead of looking to extend a winning streak, West Virginia (4-4) will be trying to earn a big win just to get back above .500. It goes without saying- that win isn't going to come easy.
Michigan (10-0) has already defeated four teams from power conferences. The Wolverines are among the nation's leaders in field goal percentage (50.7) and average about 78 points per game. Also, only three of their wins have been by less than ten points.
They should provide a challenge for the Mountaineers defensively, too. West Virginia struggles to score as it is, but Michigan's making it tough for any of its opponents to put up points. Teams playing Michigan have only reached 60 points in five of their ten games, and in the team's last three games, Michigan is giving up just 49 points per game.
That's all bad news for the Mountaineers. They are 311th in the nation, shooting 39 percent from the field. The defense has played well, but the offense is going to have to get going if West Virginia is going to pull the upset.
Juwan Staten is the only player on the team averaging double digits. He puts up 10.6 points per game, while Deniz Kilicli scores 9.9, and Aaric Murray adds 9.4. The two big men had trouble finding room inside against Duquesne, forcing a lot of outside shots for the Mountaineers. That hasn't been a recipe for success for this team.
These two have also struggled with fouls in the early part of the year. They've got to stay on the court on Saturday and have an impact on the game while they're out there.
Michigan, on the other hand, has no trouble scoring from the outside. The team's three top scorers are all guards. Trey Burke leads the way with 17.1 points, while Tim Hardaway, Jr. adds 14.8, and Nik Stauskas nets 13.5. The team's leading rebounder, Glenn Robinson III, scores 11.6 points per game.
West Virginia fans will obviously be familiar with the offense that the Wolverines will run. Head coach John Beilein spent five seasons in Morgantown, compiling a 104-60 record with the Mountaineers. This will be the first time these two programs have ever met, so it will be Beilein's first chance to play against his former team since he left.
He did face the Mountaineers in the NIT while he was coaching at Richmond in 2001. The Spiders beat West Virginia in that game, 79-56.
The Mountaineers have only played one other ranked team so far this year, and that didn't go so well. Gonzaga won 84-50 on opening night.
Saturday night's game will be played in Brooklyn at the brand new Barclays Center. The game will tip at 8 pm and will be televised by ESPN.