John Beilein was given the opportunity to turn Michigan back into a national championship contender because of the success he achieved while coaching at West Virginia.
Beilein faces his former school for the first time when his third-ranked Wolverines try to remain undefeated Saturday night against the Mountaineers in the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at Barclays Center.
"I have no idea what the crowd is gonna be like, but I know ticket demand from my end has been big," said Beilein, who went 104-60 at West Virginia from 2002-07.
He led the Mountaineers to the NCAA tournament's round of eight in 2005, the regional semifinals in 2006 and the NIT title in 2007. Beilein left to take over at Michigan the next season, and he's guided a once-flailing program to three NCAA tournament appearances in five years.
"If the young men I had recruited were still there, that would be strange," he said of playing against West Virginia. "... There's not a lot of people I really know other than an opposing school type of relationship."
The Wolverines (10-0) are off to their best start since the 1988-89 national championship team won its first 11 games. While Michigan ranks among the national leaders in field-goal shooting (50.7 percent) and points allowed (56.7 per game), Beilein and his staff make sure the team keeps things in perspective.
"You've got to be careful when you do lose that you don't overreact because you will lose," he said. "As coaches we're going to give our best and expect the players to do the same. We have a heck of a game coming up."
Beilein clearly isn't taking this matchup lightly even though the Mountaineers (4-4) are mired in mediocrity while his team is beating opponents by an average of 21.2 points.
The Wolverines are coming off a 67-39 rout of Binghamton on Tuesday as star guard Trey Burke scored 19 points in 30 minutes.
"That's a great team - a team that could win a national championship," Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey said.
While Burke has been consistently good, averaging a team-high 17.1 points and a Big Ten-leading 6.9 assists, the Wolverines surely hope to see Tim Hardaway Jr. get back on track. Hardaway has averaged 10.3 points on 31.0 percent shooting in four games this month after entering December scoring 17.8 per game and shooting 56.2 percent.
Michigan has committed 12 fouls in its last two games, with those opponents combining for seven free-throw attempts. The 102 attempts from the line by Michigan opponents are the sixth-fewest in the country.
"It's been a point of emphasis my whole life," Beilein said. "We think you can play good defense without having stupid fouls. You're going to have fouls, but it's just fouls that are not necessary. We work really hard at that."
The Wolverines also have five games with at least 40 rebounds after recording one last season while going 24-10. Michigan, however, expects to be in for a tough test against a West Virginia squad averaging 41.6 boards to rank in the top 25 nationally.
The Mountaineers' biggest problem is that they shoot 39.0 percent from field, including 26.4 from 3-point range. West Virginia blew a 13-point halftime lead Tuesday, shooting 9 for 32 in the second half of a 60-56 loss at Duquesne that ended its three-game winning streak.
"I'm going to have to get sleeping pills pretty soon if we don't start to make shots. I can't go much longer without sleep," coach Bob Huggins told the Mountaineers' official website. "The (shots) better fall. That would be a great Christmas present."
Sophomore guard Juwan Staten averages a team-leading 10.6 points while shooting 39.7 percent.
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