Michigan and the Round of 32…
It isn't rocket science, this round of 32 game against
The Wolverines protect the basketball better than any other
team in the country. They turn the ball over on just 14.4% of their
possessions. We all know the other side of that coin. VCU turns over opponents
at a higher rate than anyone else in the nation–28.8% of possessions.
Irresistible force, meet immovable object.
But let's not get all overly-extreme, not with a Sweet 16 berth
on the line. There's enough drama so let's not complicate things by making rash
statements. Honestly, anything could happen tomorrow. Anything.
Let's stipulate the obvious: if Michigan handles the ball
well and has, say, seven turnovers, it will be difficult for VCU to win. And if
havoc creates 20+ turnovers, it looks good for the good guys. (Michigan is 0-3
when they turn over the ball more than 15 times.)
But what if Michigan's turnover number is more than a little
but not a lot? What's the key to the game? See below.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Things I'm Watching
1. The Bo Derek Special (10). The only statistics that matter
are the statistics that matter to your style of play. I don't stress opponent
shooting percentage. I stress less about rebounding. I care about possessions
and three point efficiency and VCUs shooting percentage. We're going to need to
knock down shots, plain and simple. I want to see double-digit threes, and
Juvonte Reddic knocking down half his shots. Bucketmakers.
2. The Sir Mix A Lot Special (Big Backside). Yes the Rams have
struggled at times with halfcourt defense, but Michigan is a three-guard,
flying team. They don't really play halfcourt basketball so I’m not concerned.
The back of the press has to hold up to slashers, rim runners, and to wings
spotting up. VCU has to find their man. I’m keeping my eye on Wolverines
running in space when other players are running. VCUs transition defense is the
most important aspect of this game.
3. The Doug Flutie Special (Little Things Are Big Things). VCU
is going to have to make free throws. Treveon Graham is going to have to make
those shots around the rim. The Rams are going to have to win the battle of
offensive rebounds. I’m making notes on the easy opportunities. Those things
are like the football play where you complete a 25-yard pass for a first down,
but it’s called back for a holding penalty.
4. The Babe Ruth Special (Three). How many times has Shaka Smart said this year that we have
to get game going in our pace, to play downshill basketball? It’s easy to see when the
Rams are rolling—a third scorer emerges. We see it in the Rob Brandenberg stat
(17-0 when Rob scores 11 or more points), but it’s true. The good news is that
there are options. Reddic, Graham, Daniels, Brandenberg, Theus, Johnson. all
are capable. Heck, if I get a choice, I want to see Troy Daniels knock down
5. The Marie Curie Special (Chemists and chemistry). VCU is a
full-fledged, radioactive team. Michigan, with guys thinking about pro careers,
are not as unified. That matters when things get tough. Saint Louis is an
example of what I mean. VCU gave them a direct punch in the teeth. They
wobbled, but didn’t let it get them all the way down. When havoc starts
havocing, I’m looking for individual grousing and barking at each other. That
will be a sign of distress.
We Don't Work For Free
Trey Burke (19.2ppg, 6.7apg) is getting run for national
player of the year. He has every move and a deadly step-back jumper. Burke is a
40% three-point shooter (65-162) but loves to push the ball at all times. He
will reach and gamble on defense–note that for Darius Theus getting into the
Tim Hardaway, Jr. (14.8ppg, 4.7rpg) is a very good wing and
corner player, alternating back door cuts with three point shots (60-161,
37.3%). Hardaway hit 5-7 from three against SDSU. VCUs advantage: the 6-6
Hardaway does not like contact (think traps), and he isn't very interested in
Glenn Robinson III (10.6ppg, 5.4rpg) is a big time athlete,
high energy 6-6 swingman who is always cutting and moving without the ball.
Robinson was just a 32% shooter from three during the season, making 19, but he
swished three of them from the corner against SDSU. Big Note: Robinson is not a
Nik Stauskas (11.5ppg, 3.2rpg) is a wiry, solid-looking 6-6
freshman wing who is a big time (and I mean big time) shooter. Stauskas has hit
71-158 (44.9%) from three on the year but can finish through contact. He is a
slow-footed defender, so look for VCU wings to drive him.
Mitch McGary (6.6ppg, 5.5rpg) is a big 6-10, 250-pound lefty
freshman who earned his first start in the SDSU game and responded with 13
points and nine rebounds. McGary is a physical offensive rebounder who finishes
at rim off interior passes from the bevy of guards.
Jordan Morgan (5.4ppg, 4.7rpg) lost his starting job to
McGary. He is a big bodied 6-8 post who scores garbage buckets and is a
slow-footed defender–the kind of player havoc eats alive.
Caris LeVert (2.5ppg, 1.0rpg) is a long, athletic shooter
who is always hunting shots, but not a great ballhandler. LeVert does have some
long range ability despite making just 11 threes on the year.
Jon Horford (2.9ppg, 2.2rpg) is similar to Morgan in that
he's a physical, dirty work guy who does everything around the rim. Havoc loves
this kind of player.
Spike Albrecht (1.5ppg, 0.7apg) is a 5-11 freshman and will
see spot minutes–perhaps more, depending on the effect of havoc–in the backup
point guard role. Albrecht is a fort-holder: run the offense until Burke gets
Michigan doesn't play the kind of hard-nosed defense you
need to beat VCU (See: St. Louis). So the keys to this game will likely reside
when VCU has the basketball. The Rams need to fly up the court in transition,
off makes and misses. Those rim runs are key, but also constant movement, the
kind of movement that breaks down a half-hearted defense and produces open
Then, knock down shots.
On defense, it's about guarding the three point line. VCU
must contest every shot and force the Wolverines to shoot difficult twos as
opposed to rhythm threes.
We talk about resolve and spirit all the time. Guess what?
It's time for Sweet 16 resolve and spirit. Be VCU. And here's a great big
tipoff, before the tipoff. In today's media session, Tim Hardaway finished up a
question about turning the ball over against havoc. His very last line before
leaving the podium:
"We just have to go out there and contain it and just
try to make sure we don't get scared, don't get nervous when they're in
Yeah, you don't make that statement unless someone talked
about being afraid of havoc.