The Michigan Wolverines were able to win in the round of 64 on a night when their best player didn't shoot well. The VCU Rams were not tested at all in their round of 64 game.
VCU can win because…
boast the best ball-hawking defense in the country. The Rams, under head coach
Shaka Smart, force turnovers on 28.8 percent of all opponents' possessions, the
best rate in the United States. VCU's "havoc" defense rattles
opposing ballhandlers and bothers offenses, preventing wing shooters from
getting into a rhythm. VCU's philosophy is a lot like the approach a pitcher
uses in baseball: he tries to throw off the timing of the opponent, making them
think about something other than scoring. Even if a team is able to avoid
committing a turnover against VCU, it will still lose the larger battle if it
takes 20 seconds to settle into a halfcourt set. Teams generally want to be
able to initiate the action on their offense within 10 to 12 seconds of getting
the ball in backcourt (which is when the 35-second shot clock begins to run
down). If 20 seconds are running off the clock and the first movements in a set
play don't occur until there are 15 seconds left on the shot clock, VCU limits
an opponent's options at the offensive end of the floor.
can go on hot streaks, but they're not utterly dependable. If Tim Hardaway,
Jr., is not supporting Michigan's best player, Trey Burke, the Wolverines can
become alarmingly thin, and they don't have players outside of the
Hardaway-Burke combo who can create shots with dribble penetration. VCU has a
very reasonable chance of putting the clamps on Michigan's offense.
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Michigan can win because…
matchup between VCU's swarming defense and Michigan's ball-security offense,
the Wolverines are in position to counter the Rams' takeaway rate of 28.8
percent. Michigan has the No. 1 ball-protection offense in the country, giving
away the rock on only 14.4 percent of all possessions. Michigan is an
inconsistent shooting team, but it regularly minimizes turnovers. This is what
makes the Wolverines a tough matchup for VCU; the Rams thrive on turnovers so
that they can get run-outs and easy baskets. If Michigan doesn't feed a steady
stream of cheap points to VCU, however, the Rams won't be able to get nearly as
much mileage out of their defense as they would like to.
has to emphasize that Trey Burke - far and away the best player on the
Wolverines and a national player of the year candidate - hit just 2 of 12 shots
on Thursday in Michigan's win over South Dakota State. The betting odds suggest that
Burke won't shoot that poorly in this game. Anything close to a 50-percent
shooting performance, especially from three-point range, should give Burke a
productive stat line. Moreover, if Burke is indeed producing, VCU is going to
have to commit more defenders to him, which will leave teammates open for
high-quality shots at various points during the contest.
Outlook & Prediction:
like a game in which both teams will land their share of blows. VCU will gain
because Michigan's big men do not have good hands in traffic and will probably
get stripped a lot on Saturday. Michigan's guards, on the other hand, will
probably thrive, given their ability to protect the ball and create
opportunities at the offensive end of the floor with dribble penetration.
Ultimately, VCU - which narrowly missed the Sweet 16 last year - is playing
with more confidence than Michigan right now. The Rams will find a way to beat
the Wolverines by three or four points. Take them for this NCAA basketball pick.
NCAAB Pick: VCU at Bovada