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December 15, 2012Michigan head coach John Beilein wasn't in any hurry to schedule West Virginia after leaving the school for U-M six years ago, but it was probably just a matter of time before it happened. The first meeting will take place Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
There are few ties remaining between Beilein and the Mountaineers program other than the school's sports information director.
"If the young men I had recruited were still there, that would be strange," he said. "I think DeSean Butler is on the bench [coaching] - but other than that, not a lot of people I really know from an opposing school relationship."
He does know plenty about WVU coach Bob Huggins, however, having faced him twice in his career.
"They are physical on defense, play with patience on offense with good shot selection," Beilein added of the 4-4 Mountaineers. "They are a really rugged rebounding team. We've faced teams like that before, but I don't think we've faced one this good that really goes after it.
"They're similar to a Kansas State or Pitt type when it comes to rebounding. We brought really good energy and toughness to those games and we need to bring that again - maybe more."
The Mountaineers look to rebound after a loss to Duquesne, one in which they held a 15-point lead in the first half before collapsing. Huggins understands that his team's improvement starts with defense.
"I think we are ready," he said. "I can't guarantee you we're going to shoot 50-percent, but I think we're going to play," he said. "John's always had great spacing. They run good offense, they spread you and it's easy to spread you when you shoot the ball the way they shoot it."
West Virginia, however, continues to struggle to shoot the ball, and Duquesne exposed the Mountaineers in keeping them out of the paint. Huggins wouldn't allow the early season schedule - they've played nine of 11 on the road - as an excuse.
"I grew up shooting on a hoop that was nailed up to the house. I can shoot," he said. "I tell our guys all the time people, play better at home I think, but it's more because of a routine. You don't get out of your normal routine more than anything else."
Playing at the Barclays Center, meanwhile, might feel like home for the Wolverines.
"We didn't know, but we hoped we'd get to New York in the NIT," Beilein said. "But ever since our trip to UConn and Coaches vs. Cancer in Madison Square Garden, a few times we've gone to alumni functions in New York, felt the presence of great alums there - No 1 to go to New York, No. 2 the adventure of curiosity of Barclay Center, on National TV and quality opponent on Saturday night in Brooklyn was too good to pass up."
"We'll see if we use him or not," Beilein said. "I like our rotation right now. He's in position if we have injury or foul trouble to get in there."
"I don't have to work with him more," he said. "He's been on fire the last two days. I don't know if I have a trained eye for it or know him, but I know when that shot is missing by inches or way off. He's ready to roll."