Round of 32
It’s only the Round of 32, but this Game is getting talked up like an Elite 8 matchup or even more. VCU is coming off a complete demolition of Akron. Even after laying off in the final five minutes or so, they still won by 46 points and it could have easily been a 60-point Game. Michigan also played well in their opener, beating an upset favorite of South Dakota State by 15 points. The thing to worry about for opponents is that their best player, Trey Burke, had a terrible Game from the field shooting 2-of-12. After scoring at least 15 points in every Big Ten Game this year, Burke only had six against the Jackrabbits. If Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. can have a repeat performance (combined 42 points), it’s going to be hard for VCU to pull out a win.
By now, mostly everyone knows about VCU and their Havoc defense. If you still think they are a small mid-major that has no chance of winning like a couple years ago, you haven’t been watching college basketball. The Rams full cOurt press all Game and if you can’t handle it, the result usually isn’t pretty (ie. Akron). On the other side, Michigan turns the ball over the fewest of any team in the nation at 9.2 times per Game. Leading that is Burke with his 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. The stats lead to the Wolverines having the advantage, but they haven’t really played a team like VCU this season. You never really know how good this press is until you play against it, and they’ll face it on short preparation.
Another difference in Michigan’s opening-round Game was freshman Mitch McGary in the starting lineup. It was just his third start of the season, but he took it in stride with 13 points and nine rebounds. He should be able to repeat that performance against a smaller team. If the Wolverines can beat the press, VCU is just a normal team in half cOurt sets and with higher skilled players, Michigan has the advantage. Whether its Burke or one of their shooters, it’s going to be very tough to stop this team. VCU forced 21 turnovers against Akron and will need around 15 in this Game to pull off the upset.
The Rams also have a balanced offense that can’t be overlooked. Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic lead the team with a combined 30 points and 14 rebounds per Game and both will need to attack the hoop to succeed. Much like the rest of this team, they are athletic and can create problems on the defensive end. The one person Michigan really has to worry about is three-point bomber Troy Daniels who has now made 123 three-balls on the season. On Thursday night, he hit six of them, but typically when VCU loses, Daniels doesn’t have that much success. He will likely be matched up with fellow sharpshooter, Nik Stauskas.
No matter who you think is going to win this Game, it will be fun to watch. Can Burke lead his troops past Havoc and the Rams? Usually in Tournament Games, if you have trouble deciding on a winner, many people just say go with the team that has more skilled players. In this case, Burke along with Hardaway Jr. and McGary are the most skilled on the cOurt. But again, that’s not always the best route to take in prediction as we saw in Harvard’s upset of New Mexico.