What to expect: VCU faces Michigan in the Wolverine’s backyard

5th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University faces 4th-seeded Michigan on Saturday in the 3rd round of the NCAA tournament.

  • What: VCU (27-8, 12-4) vs. Michigan (27-7, 12-6)
  • Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills
  • When: Saturday, March 23rd at 12:15 PM
  • Watch: CBS
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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The Rundown

5th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University faces 4th-seeded Michigan on Saturday in the 3rd round of the NCAA tournament.

The Team

There is no way to suger coat this: Michigan is really, really good. They started the season a perfect 16-0 with wins over Pittsburgh, Kansas St., NC State, and Iowa. Their season peaked when they were 20-1 with the #1 ranking. The Big 10 hasn’t been quite as kind as the non-conference. Michigan is 7-6 in their last 13 games which is why their 4-seed may not be representative of their talent.

Despite the less than stellar finish, including an embarrassing 84-78 loss to Penn State, the Maize and Blue have the advantage of playing less than 50 miles from their home in Ann Arbor, MI. It will be listed as neutral site, but Wolverine fans will undoubtedly outnumber Ram fans 10 to 1.

A major story line this season has been the lack of scoring in college basketball. Michigan has defied that story line. They rank 2nd in offensive efficiency behind Indiana and, despite playing the 219th slowest pace in college basketball, average 75ppg. They have four players that are extremely capable 3-point shooters, and Mitch McGary is quickly maturing into one of the best big men in the nation.

Defense is where Michigan has been prone to losing games. Penn State was 0-13 in the Big 10 entering their late February matchup, but the Nitanny Lions went 10-20 from 3-point range while abusing Michigan’s defense to the tune of 84(!) points. The Rams can score in the 70s and 80s. Making things worse for the Wolverines, VCU’s pressure defense is much more effective when the Rams are hitting shots.

How VCU Can Win

Michigan has six extremely talented players, including a few future NBA draft picks, but they rarely rely on their bench. After years of AAU, college basketball players have endurance, but the cumulative effects of the press combined with a quick turnaround could be important.

VCU’s victory over Akron highlighted the other side of HAVOC!. So much is being made of Michigan’s offense versus VCU’s defense, but tomorrow’s game could be decided by the Ram’s ability to score on the Wolverines. Coach Shaka Smart’s fourth team is an offensive juggernaut and outscoring Michigan could be the path to victory if HAVOC! is less effective than usual.

The Star: #3 Trey Burke (PG, Sophomore)

18.8ppg, 6.7rpg, 3.0rpg, 1.6spg, 3.3-1 a/to ratio

Trey Burke is a serious candidate for the 2013 Naismith Player of the Year Award and he is arguably the best point guard in the nation. He could have gone in the lottery of the 2012 NBA draft, but he decided to stay an extra year. He is an extremely capable scorer but he is even better at finding open shots for Michigan’s talented wings.

Thursday night against South Dakota St. was the first time all season that Trey Burke scored in single figures. He finished with 6 points on 2-12 shooting. On a normal night, Burke will almost always score 18 points no matter how many shots he has to take. Beating Michigan starts with making Burke an inefficient scorer.

Supporting Cast

#10 Tim Hardaway Jr. (G, Junior) • The son of 5-time NBA all-star Tim Hardaway, Hardaway Jr. is scary good. Troy Daniels could draw the assignment, and Daniels can’t give up an inch. Thursday, Jr. put on a scoring clinic. He finished with 21 points while connecting on 5-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc. At 6-foot-6, he can shoot over defenders at a rate unmatched by many players in the nation.

#11 Nik Stauskus (SG, Freshman) • Stauskas busted onto the national scene by shooting 39-69 (.565) from 3-point range in Michigan’s non-conference schedule. That’s not a typo. The Canadian is a serious threat from range. He returned to mere mortal shooting levels in the Big 10, but he is still capable of scoring double figures on 4-7 shots.

#1 Glenn Robinson III (F, Freshman) • At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, Robinson III is a good matchup for Treveon Graham. The son of the #1 overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, Robinson III is a super efficient scorer. He entered Thursday 19-59 from 3-point range before finishing a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. He usually plays as an undersized forward, and he leaves a lot to be desired as a rebounder. Graham has the skills to capitalize on the offensive glass and in the half court.

#4 Mitch McGary (F, Freshman) • At one point, McGary was considered the #2 high school prospect in the nation. He fell in the rankings during his senior season, but he is wrapping up a very successful season in Ann Arbor. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound freshman is one of the best rebounders in the nation, he can score in the half court, and Thursday night he was tremendous in the open court. At times this season, McGary was frustrated by talented big men with cool demeanors. Juvonte Reddic must answer the call in order for VCU to win.


#52 Jordan Morgan (F, Junior) • Michigan’s go-to big guy for two and half years, Morgan has recently seen his role marginalized by the maturation of Mitch McGary. Either way, Michigan still has two 250-pound crafty, rebounding big men that they can throw in the game. Unlike Wichita State and Indiana in 2012, the Wolverine’s front court can’t simply be contained by getting one player into foul trouble.

The Prediction

Too close to call. This game has the potential to play out a million different ways. It’s two very different basketball teams fighting for the right to go to the Sweet 16, and the team that dictates their style will probably advance. KenPom picks Michigan to win 73-72 with a 54% chance of victory.

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Michigan Profile

  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Enrollment: ~42,000
  • Conference: Big 10
  • All time series: N/A
  • Last meeting: N/A

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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