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West Virginia basketball preview: Mountaineers head to Xavier for first time in school history for Big 12 - Big East Battle

A win over the Musketeers would make a statement as the Mountaineers near Big 12 conference play

NCAA Basketball: Pennsylvania at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

After what should be considered a successful trip to Portland, Oregon for the PK85 Tournaments — even with the fifth-place finish — the West Virginia Mountaineers are back on the road on Saturday when they’ll take on the Xavier Musketeers at Xavier for the first time in school history.

While WVU and Xavier have a short history with each other, Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins is all too familiar with them and, perhaps, still carries the Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry with him at West Virginia. During his media call on Thursday, Huggins didn’t mince words when asked for his thoughts on the Mountaineers drawing the Musketeers in the Big 12-Big East Battle.

How to watch the game

West Virginia (6-1) and Xavier tipoff at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on FS1 with Matt Schumacker (play-by-play) and Dickey Simpkins (color analyst) on the call.

The game will be played at the Cintas Center (10,250 capacity) in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The series between West Virginia and Xavier is tied at 1-1, with this being just the third time the two programs have met. The last meeting between the WVU and Xavier took place in the NCAA Sweet 16 on March 27, 2008 in Phoenix, Arizona, with the No. 12-ranked Musketeers escaping with a 79-75 win in overtime.

The Bob Huggins File

Bob Huggins enters Saturday with a career record of 922-400 in his 41st season as a head coach. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer has won 332 games in his 16th season with his alma mater. Only Gale Catlett (439) has won more games at West Virginia.

With West Virginia’s win against Portland State on November 25th, Huggins moved past Jim Calhoun into third place all-time in Division I wins.

Huggins holds a 8-10 record against Xavier, including the 8-8 record during his time at Cincinnati.

The Sean Miller File

Sean Miller, who returned to Xavier this season after spending 12 seasons at Arizona, is coaching in his 18th season at the Division I level. Miller previously coached the Musketeers from 2004-2009 where he led them to NCAA tournament appearances in four of those seasons, including a trip to Elite Eight in 2008.

Miller has a combined record of 125-50 (71%) in his tenures at Xavier and a 425-156 (73%) career record.

West Virginia starters

G Kedrian Johnson, 6-3, 5th year (7.9 points, 1.6 rebounds)

G Erik Stevenson, 6-4, 5th year (14.1 points, 2.4 rebounds)

F Tre Mitchell, 6-9, senior (12.6 points, 4.7 rebounds)

F Emmitt Matthews Jr., 6-7, 5th year (10.1 points, 2.9 rebounds)

F Jimmy Bell Jr., 6-10, senior (4.6 points, 5.3 rebounds)

Key reserves

G Joe “Joey Toots” Toussaint, 6-0, senior (11.1 points, 3.1 rebounds)

F Mohamed Wague, 6-10, sophomore (7.1 points, 4 rebounds)

G Seth Wilson, 6-1, sophomore (4.6 points, 2 rebounds)

Xavier starters

G KyKy Tandy, 6-2, senior (4.8 points, 1.4 rebounds)

G Colby Jones, 6-6, junior (15.7 points, 5.4 rebounds)

G Desmond Claude, 6-5, freshman (3.8 points, 1.9 rebounds)

G Souley Boum, 6-3, senior (15.8 points, 3.9 rebounds)

F Jack Nunge, 7-0, senior (15 points, 6.8 rebounds)


This isn’t an easy matchup for the Mountaineers by any means, but I’m encouraged by the showing in Portland. Xavier holds a slight advantage on the season in field goal % (51.4% to WVU’s 49.4%) and rebounding (36.9 per game to WVU’s 34.9), but the Musketeers have allowed an average of 11 more points per game than West Virginia entering this contest.

The story, as always for the Mountaineers, is going to come down to rebounding. WVU worked the glass well in Sunday’s win over the Florida Gators, outrebounding them 49-28. If West Virginia can clean up around the rim and the trio of Mitchell, Stevenson, and Matthews continue making shots, I think there’s a real chance for a surprising win.

West Virginia 81, Xavier 77