After handing Virginia Tech their first loss of the season last Saturday, West Virginia plummeted back to Earth, falling to lowly Duquesne on Tuesday.
With hopes of vaulting themselves back into NCAA Tournament picture, the Mountaineers (4-4) take on the No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines (10-0) tonight at 8:00PM in the first annual Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival, televised on ESPN.
West Virginia will be traveling without starting center Aaric Murray, who stayed behind in Morgantown for undisclosed reasons. With that in mind, here are three keys to the game tonight for the Mountaineers to emerge victorious.
1. Push the Tempo - I know. It sounds crazy with WVU being a man down, but Michigan is even more short-handed. John Beilein has four starters averaging over 29 minutes and only two others averaging double-digits. The rest of the team are sporadic role players who only manage a handful of minutes per game.
2. Focus the Foreigners - Pardon the politically incorrectness, but West Virginia will need to make a concerted effort to get Deniz Kilicli on track. Of course, there's only so much everyone else can do. The Turk needs to put in the effort himself, too. And with Murray out, Ukrainian transfer Vlodymyr Gerun will need to make the most out of his presumed debut tonight. WVU also needs to keep a man on Michigan's Canadian-born Nik Stauskas, who is shooting an absurd 58.7% from beyond the arc.
3. Dominate the Offensive Glass - I expect West Virginia to win the rebounding battle. They should. Everyone knows the inherent weakness behind a John Beilein team, regardless of where he is coaching, is rebounding. Not surprisingly, they are 85th in the country in rebounds. However, WVU needs to not just win, but dominate, the offensive glass. The Mountaineers are going to miss a lot of shots, as they tend to do, but will need to crash the boards and get plenty of second chance points. A 2-to-1 ratio on the offensive glass should be the goal.
For those in attendance and those watching at home, come join us to talk about the game and make your predictions in our official game thread.