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Chuck McGill: WVU, Marshall have big basketball weekend

Saturday will be historic for college basketball in the Mountain State, which should delight any scrooges who are humbugging about the respective starts for Marshall (6-4) and West Virginia (4-4).

It could be unprecedented territory for the coaches of the state's two Division I programs, too. We'll get to that later.

Saturday will be the fifth time since 1950, when The Associated Press started releasing a weekly top 25 poll, that the Herd and Mountaineers have faced nationally ranked competition on the same day.

Marshall gets undefeated and No. 11 Cincinnati at 2 p.m. in the Charleston Civic Center.

At 8 p.m. in Brooklyn's brand new $1 billion Barclays Center, WVU matches up with former Coach John Beilein, who has No. 3 Michigan off to its first 10-0 start since 1988-89.

The early-season struggles for the in-state teams might have removed some of the luster from these non-league matchups.

At Marshall, third-year Coach Tom Herrion will take the Herd into the program's 60th game against a ranked opponent. Marshall is 8-51 all-time against top 25 teams, with the last three coming against West Virginia.

The last time the Herd beat an out-of-state ranked opponent was Dec. 2, 2000 in a 67-65 win over No. 24 Dayton.

That's also one of the four previous dates WVU and Marshall have faced ranked foes on the same day (the Mountaineers lost to No. 7 Tennessee that day, 79-78).

It happened most recently on Feb. 3 2010, when No. 6 WVU routed No. 22 Pitt in Morgantown.

A few hours away in Huntington, the Herd lost to No. 21 UTEP.

The other two instances occurred about five decades ago: Jan. 4, 1964 and Jan. 16, 1960.

WVU lost to No. 7 Davidson in '64 on the same day Marshall fell to No. 9 Toledo. In '60, No. 3 WVU topped No. 9 Villanova while Marshall again lost to Toledo, which was ranked No. 18.

WVU and Marshall have never both defeated ranked opponents on the same day.

Five losses on the ledger in December?

Neither Herrion nor WVU Coach Bob Huggins have ever lost five games before New Year's Day. That's 33 combined Division I seasons, excluding this year.

Huggins, in fact, only lost four November/December games once at Akron and twice at Cincinnati. Herrion had it happen to him once - a 7-4 record before the ball dropped in his final season at College of Charleston.

Odds are against both avoiding this first-time fate Saturday.

Huggins is trying to avoid his first 4-5 start since he debuted as Walsh's head coach in 1980-81.

WVU has lost six consecutive games against ranked teams and nine of its last 10 overall. The program's last win over a top 3 team in the regular season came on Feb. 10, 2007 - a 70-65 triumph over No. 2 UCLA in Morgantown.

Saturday's game, of course, isn't in the Coliseum, but the Brooklyn Nets' spectacular new hoops home.

Herrion's Herd will play on the Civic Center hardwood for the second time in three games. While Marshall has won four of its last five games, only one of those victories came against a team with a winning record (Nevada is 6-4).

Of MU's five Division I wins this season. Those opponents' RPI rankings are 269, 164, 248 and 284.

That's largely why the Herd's RPI is 280 heading into Saturday's non-conference showdown with Cincinnati, which is 9-0 and has its highest ranking since Huggins ran the Bearcats' program.

Fortunately for the Herd, Cincy is barely outside the top 10. Marshall is 1-27 all-time against top 10 opponents.

MU has lost eight of nine against ranked teams and nine in a row to ranked opponents not named West Virginia.

If that trend is going to be reversed at the Civic Center, Marshall will need a quick recovery from losing leading scorer DeAndre Kane, who is out indefinitely with a right (shooting) hand injury.

Huggins has a healthy and full allotment of players, but they're shooting about as well as Kane would in a cast.

Michigan, meanwhile, is No. 8 in Division I in hoops 3-point shooting at 42.1 percent and is outscoring teams by an average of 20.4 points.

In the building where Jay-Z usually sits courtside, Huggins must feel like he has 99 problems, too.

"I think everybody thought (Michigan-WVU) would be a marquee, national game," Huggins said Wednesday. "We haven't held up our end of the bargain."

A Saturday sweep of ranked teams would be a first for state hoops fans.

That'd surely elate a few basketball Ebenezers just in time for the holidays.

Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at chuck.mcgill@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.


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