Game Preview: VCU v Michigan

VCU’s Melvin Johnson will be one of a number of talented young players on display when the Rams take on Michigan.

For the third consecutive season VCU has advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament. The Rams did so by taking advantage of a perfect second round matchup against an Akron team that had recently suspended their senior point guard after a drug arrest, manhandling the Zips 88-42 last night.

VCU will hope to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second time since 2011, but in their way stands a Michigan Wolverines team once ranked No.1 in the nation, led by sophomore point guard sensation Trey Burke who will have a hometown crowd rooting for him every step of the way.

5- VCU (27-8)
4- Michigan (27-7)

A quick look at Michigan: The Wolverines tore through non-conference play, starting the season off 16-0 en route to earning the schools first No.1 national ranking since the famed Fab 5 days in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately for the Maize and Blue, the regular season didn’t end quite as well, losing five of their last ten conference games, and then losing by nine to Wisconsin in the Big 10 tournament. The Wolverines are led by a talented group of young players including one of the most skilled point guards in the land, sophomore Trey Burke (18.8 ppg, 6.7 apg). Burke is joined by Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glen Robinson III, sons of NBA players who combine for 26 points per game. Freshmen Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary round out the top of a high scoring offense who’s 75.2 ppg average (27th in the country) is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the majority of it has been earned in the rock fight capitol of college hoops, the Big 10 conference (or “B1G” if you insist).

A quick look at VCU: The Rams were red hot on both sides of the ball last night, all-be-it against an overmatched Akron Zips squad. VCU will look to ride that confidence to a win in what is virtually a home game for the Wolverines, with Auburn Hills just a one-hour drive from Ann Arbor. The ease in which VCU got past Akron last night meant no player played more than 26 minutes, with three starters–Graham, Brandenberg and Theus–playing under 20 minutes in the win.

Tale of the Tape…
Scoring Offense: VCU 78, Michigan 75.2
Scoring Defense: Michigan 62.7, VCU 64.1
Field Goal%: Michigan 48.4%, VCU 45.2%
Field Goal% Defense: Michigan 42%, VCU 44.2%
3-Point Field Goal%: Michigan 38.5%, VCU 35.5%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: Michigan 32.8%, VCU 33%
Rebounds per game: VCU 34.9, Michigan 34.9
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 28.8%, Michigan 18.9%
Turnover Percentage Offense: Michigan 14.4%, VCU 16.9%

VCU wins if: VCU’s havoc defense is most effective when the Rams hit shots on offense. You’ve read it here all season but I’ll say it again for those of you who may be new here: If the Rams can’t hit shots, they can’t press. So clearly making shots is doubly important for VCU. Shaka Smart’s group is the top team in the country at turning teams over while Michigan is the best at holding on to the ball, so getting into the press won’t be enough however. VCU has struggled this season against teams with good guards who can navigate the press, they’ll need to reverse that trend against a talented Michigan backcourt. That said, this is March, and while Michigan may be talented, they are very young. They also play a relatively short bench, their 22.7% bench minutes ranking near the bottom of D1 hoops at 324th in the country. Playing in the Big 10, VCU’s press will be unlike anything Michigan has seen this year. Youth, bright lights, millions of viewers…havoc on a short prep, those things can add up.

Michigan wins if: The reverse of the above happens. SLU, Richmond, La Salle, Duke, Missouri, Temple and Wichita State all got good guard play against VCU, and for the most part, held on to the ball in their wins over the Rams. Michigan is that kind of team, but on top of that, hit 48.4% of their shots, good for 9th in the country. They’ll also have the home court advantage while playing against a team that has been wracking up the fouls lately. That could spell trouble for VCU.

Game tips at 12:15PM EST on CBS, Saturday, March 23rd in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Watch: CBS Sports (Official watch party at Baja Bean Company in the Fan)
Listen: 107.3FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...