I did not make this headline up
|WHAT||Michigan vs. West Virginia|
|WHERE||Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York|
|WHEN||8 PM Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan –10 (Kenpom)|
Michigan's last high-major test before conference play begins comes against a struggling 4-4 West Virginia squad, which is coming off a four-point road loss to Duquesne. The Mountaineers have not fared well against tougher competition; they're 1-4 against KenPom top-100 teams, including a 44-point blowout loss at Gonzaga. Their lone win in that category came by a single point at home against #63 Virginia Tech.
West Virginia could pose some problems, however, especially up front. 6'10" center Aaric Murray is a very strong rebounder on both ends of the floor, hits 52.7% of his twos, and can even step out and knock down the occasional triple. Murray is also an strong defensive presence, boasting a 7.8% block rate.
Murray's counterpart up front, 6'9", 260-pound forward Deniz Kilicli, does two things well: pulling down offensive rebounds (12.4 OR%) and drawing fouls (6.5 fouls drawn/40 mins.). Unlike Murray, Kilicli is a bit of a mess offensively, hitting just 41.1% of his field goals (all twos) and 51.4% of his free throws, along with a high turnover rate. The fact that he's WVU's highest-usage player may explain some of their offensive woes.
6'1" guard Juwan Staten, the team's leading scorer at 10.6 points per game, is dangerous when he gets to the basket (65 FG% at the rim) but settles for a lot of two-point jumpers, of which he doesn't hit many—according to hoop-math.com, 65% of his shots are two-point jumpers, and he knocks down a paltry 22% of them. 5'11" point guard Jabarie Hinds is having a rough shooting year and doesn't have impressive assist numbers. 6'3" wing Terry Henderson gets a surprising number of offensive rebounds but also has awful shooting stats—14-43 from two and 6-22 from three this year.
The bench is led by 6'1" slasher Gary Browne, who boasts a solid O-rating of 111.9 despite an anemic 36.6 eFG%—like Kalicli, he gets to the line at a very high rate, and unlike Kalicli he actually takes advantage (81.8 FT%). 6'7" forward Keaton Miles is the team's defensive specialist, boasting high block and steal rates, and is a solid shooter inside the arc and at the line, though he's rarely used offensively.
Naturally, West Virginia's most efficient offensive player, backup big Kevin Noreen, also has the team's lowest usage rate.
Aside from Virginia Tech, victories have come against Marist, VMI, and Marshall. Losses have come at the hands of Gonzaga, Davidson, Oklahoma, and Duquesne. Interestingly, WVU has played only two home games, winning both; Saturday's game will be their fifth at a neutral site.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||42.2 (316)||15.8 (10)||40.8 (20)||33.3 (213)|
|Defense||47.4 (145)||21.6 (145)||32.0 (168)||38.5 (217)|
In case you didn't gather this above, the Mountaineers are a horrendous shooting squad, hitting 43.2% of their twos and 26.4% of their threes. They take care of the basketball and pull down a bunch of their misses, however, bumping their offense into the top 100 efficiency-wise; if they're not getting second-shot opportunities, they're in trouble.
Defensively, WVU is mediocre in just about every aspect, which in totality actually makes them an above-average unit. If there's an area to attack, it may be the perimeter, where they're allowing a higher-than-average number of three-point attempts; that's more indicative of poor perimeter defense than three-point percentage against.
Box out. Blinding insight, I know. West Virginia has a very tough time putting the ball in the basket on their first attempt. They do manage to get a second attempt at a pretty high rate. Keep them from doing that and this could easily turn into a blowout.
Collapse inside. West Virginia doesn't have a single player with more than nine attempts who's shooting more than 27.3% from three. They do have a couple guys, most notably Staten, who can get to the rim. Given the option of helping out against their slashers or staying out on their shooters, the choice is obvious.
Attack the paint. Both Murray and Kalicli are prone to foul trouble. Getting those two off the floor—particularly Murray, the team's best inside scorer, rebounder, and interior defender—would go a long way towards securing victory. West Virginia's most common lineup actually features three players 6'1" or shorter, which means Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas can take advantage of mismatches; they'll have to resist the temptation to simply shoot over their defenders, however.
Actually, Stauskas can shoot whenever he wants. Do what you do, man.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by ten