South Region Third Round: #4 Michigan Wolverines vs #5 VCU Rams

2013 NCAA Tournament – South Region Third Round
#4 Michigan Wolverines vs #5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams
Saturday, March 23, 2013, 12:15 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
The Palace of Auburn Hills – Auburn Hills, Michigan
Opening Line: Michigan -2
Current line: Michigan -3 1/2
Opening Total: 141 1/2
Current Total: 143
Opening Money Line: Michigan -155 / VCU +135
Current Money Line: Michigan -175 / VCU +155

Michigan is a 3.5 point favorite over VCU in the round of 32 Saturday.
Michigan is a 3.5 point favorite over VCU in the round of 32 Saturday.

The 26-7 Michigan Wolverines finished 12-6 in the Big Ten, widely considered to be the best conference in the country. The Wolverines tied for fourth with Wisconsin behind 14-4 Indiana and 13-5 Ohio St & Michigan St. The Wolverines were seeded fifth in the Big Tournament and lost to Wisconsin 68-59 in the quarterfinals.

The Wolverines are the #4 seed in the SouthRegion. They beat #13 seed South Dakota St 71-56 in the second round Saturday. Michigan took a narrow 30-26 into halftime. Guard Trey Burke , a potential national player of the year took a nasty spill in the second half, that injured his tailbone, elbow, and head. He would return, but scored a season low six points. He is listed as probable Saturday, but he said Friday that his elbow and tailbone were sore. His teammates picked up the slack, as the Wolverines pulled away in the second half, thanks to stifling defense on SDSU star guard Nate Wolters. Wolters was held to a season low 10 points on 3/14 shooting from the field. Michigan took the 71-56 win to advance to the third round.

The Wolverines will take on #5 Virginia Commonwealth in the third round Saturday. The winner of that will play either #1 Kansas or #8 North Carolina in the Sweet 16 next week in Arlington, Texas.

The VCU Rams moved to the Atlantic 10 from the CAA this season. VCU finished second in the A-10 with a 12-4 record a game behind 13-3 Saint Louis. The Rams lost to Saint Louis 62-56 in the Atlantic 10 Championship game Sunday.

VCU crushed a shorthanded Akron team in the second round Thursday. The Zips were already without starting point guard Alex Abreu who was suspended several games ago after being arrested for possession of marijuana. Then starting guard Bruan Walsh and reserve center Pat Forsythe were limited by the flue, and reserve guard Deji Ibitayo missed the game entirely with back spasms. VCU rolled to an 88-42 win and were never threatened. The Atlantic 10 is 6-0 so far in the NCAA tournament this year. Michigan and VCU have never played each other before.

Michigan is coached by John Beilein. Michigan has losses at Ohio St, Indiana twice, Wisconsin twice, Michigan St, and Penn State.  All of the Wolverine losses came to the 4 other conference leaders except for last place Penn State. Michigan has key home wins over Cleveland State, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Western, Central, and Eastern Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Purdue twice, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St, Illinois and Michigan St, . The Wolverines also have wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas St in a tournament in New York City, West Virginia in Brooklyn, and at Bradley, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Illinois. Michigan is 15-16-1 ATS this season and total is 19-13 this season.

Michigan is outscoring teams 75-63 this season. The Wolverines are #27 in scoring. Michigan is shooting 48.4% from the field and 38.3% from 3 point range. The Wolverines are in the top 25 nationally in both categories. Michigan makes 70.7% from the free throw line. Michigan averages 35.2 rebounds per game and gives up 29.8 per game. Michigan opponents are shooting 41.9% from the field and 33% from 3 point range. The Wolverines are averaging 14 assists, 6 steals, 3 blocks and 9 turnovers.

Michigan guards Trey Burke averages 19.2 points, 6.7 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. he is a national player of the year finalist. Guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. averages 14.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. he is probable with an ankle injury. Guard Nik Stauskas averages 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. Forward Glenn Robinson III averages 10.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. Forward Mitch McGary averages 6.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1 steal and 0.6 blocks a game to lead the team. Forward Jordan Morgan averages 5.1 points and 4.7 rebounds.  Caris LaVert and Jon Horford also get significant minutes.

VCU is coached by Shaka Smart. The Rams have losses to Wichita St, Duke & Missouri in a tournament in the Bahamas, at Richmond, LaSalle, Saint Louis twice, and at Temple. All except Richmond are NCAA Tournament teams. The Rams have key wins over Florida-Gulf Coast, at Winthrop, Memphis in the Bahamas, Belmont, Alabama, Western Kentucky, Lehigh, Dayton, at St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph’s twice, at Duquesne, at Rhode Island, Fordham, at Charlotte, UMass twice, George Washington, at Xavier, Butler, and Richmond. VCU is 11-17 ATS and the total is 13-14 this season.

VCU is outscoring teams 77-65 this season. The Rams are #13 in scoring nationally. VCU shoots 44.9% from the field and 35.2% from 3 point range. The Rams make 70.1% of their free throws. VCU averages 34.8 rebounds per game and give up 30.8. Ram opponents are shooting 44.4% from the field and 33.6% from 3 point range. VCU averages 15 assists, 12 steals, 3 blocks and 12 turnovers per game. The Rams lead the nation in steals per game with their “Havoc” defense.

Guard Treveon Graham averages 15.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. Forward Juvonte Reddic averages 14.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game to lead the team. Guard Troy Daniels averages 12.1 points and 3 rebounds.  Rob Brandenburg averages 10.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.3 steals. Darius Theus averages 7.1 points, 1.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Melvin Johnson averages 7 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1 assist. Briante Weber averages 5.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.8 steals per game.

The Rams are 12-1 ATS in NCAA Tournament games, 9-2 after allowing 50 points or less, 4-1 in non-conference games, 5-11 overall, 4-10 against teams with winning records, and 1-5 after a cover.

The Wolverines are 5-1 ATS in neutral site games, 23-11 in non-conference games, 3-10 overall, 2-7 against teams with winning records, 1-4 after a cover, 1-7 in Saturday games, and 0-4 after a straight up win.

This is basically a home game for Michigan as Auburn Hills is only an hour drive from Ann Arbor. However, VCU should be able to compete with their tough defense. Keep an eye on Burke, who could be limited by his injuries. I give the Rams at least a fighting shot of pulling off the upset.

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