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Preview: Michigan vs. VCU

Burke had a rare off game against SDSU but will have to recover tomorrow if Michigan is to beat the Rams.

With Michigan's win over South Dakota State on Thursday night and VCU's win over Akron, the matchup has now been set for the two teams on Saturday. The game features two very well respected coaches with a Sweet Sixteen appearance on the line. The winner will likely face Kansas with a chance to go to the Elite 8. This is a big game and for many, it could make or break this season for the Wolverines. Needless to say, there is a lot on the line.

The Rams: VCU is a very good team. They are ranked #21 on KenPom with the #20 offense and the #40 defense. They are best known for shooting from outside the arch and their aggressive press defense. They rank #9 nationally in 3 pt shot attempts and convert on 35.2% of these shots. Similar to Illinois, when they are shooting well, they can compete with anyone in the country and when they're not shooting well, they can struggle against some lower teams. This can be seen in a few up and down games this season. Their defense can also be up and down. They lead the nation in steals, but are also #12 in fouls. If teams turn the ball over against the Rams, they are in big trouble, but if they force them into fouling, they can get a lot of easy points.

The leaders for VCU are Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic. Graham averages 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 36.4% from outside the arch. Reddic averages 14.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. One of his best games came against Saint Louis when he got a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Reddic is only 6'9", but he can compete with some of the best big men out there. Troy Daniels is the team's best outside shooter and gets 12.1 points per game on nearly 41% shooting outside the arch. Michigan will need to key in on him to avoid a big shooting night. Rob Brandenberg also averages 10.4 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Darius Theus and Briante Weber are also worth nothing. Theus averages 26.9 minutes and 7.1 points per game. He also shoots 34.1% from outside the arch. Weber averages 21.1 minutes and 5.4 points per game.

Keys To The Game: VCU is sort of like Illinois, but on steroids. The one thing you do not want the Illini to do is get on a big run and the same thing goes with VCU. Do not let them get easy turnovers, hit easy baskets, and get transition 3 point shots. These take a ton of momentum and allow VCU to create such big runs. The advantage for Michigan is that they are good at handling the ball and avoiding turnovers. The team committed some bad turnovers against South Dakota State, but the defensive pressure is going to be much more intense against VCU. Preventing these turnovers will be key.

As mentioned earlier, the big negative to VCU's aggressive defensive style is that it leads to a lot of mistakes. VCU has made it work because their forced turnovers outweigh their mistakes, but if the Wolverines can avoid turnovers, they are going to get fouled pretty often and are going to get some open looks behind the defense. Michigan needs to make sure to convert on these mistakes by hitting their free throws and hitting the easy baskets. If they can do this, they will be in good shape.

Players To Watch: Trey Burke had a rare off game against South Dakota State and he will be looking to recover against VCU. He couldn't have picked a better game since he will desperately needed to avoid turnovers for the Wolverines. He has been good at doing so this season, but he's really going to do need to do it in this game. Mitch McGary could also play a big role. He had a big game on Thursday and will need to have another against a relatively weak VCU frontcourt. The final player to watch is Tim Hardaway. He had a brilliant game against SDSU and Michigan will need him to play big again. Avoiding turnovers while driving the basket is one way he can do this.

Prediction: Michigan by 2

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