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Virginia Commonwealth (27-8) vs. Michigan (27-7)
Saturday, March 23, 12:15 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Palace of Auburn Hills (24,276) -- Auburn Hills, Michigan. Television: CBS. NCAA Tournament Record: VCU 11-11, Michigan 44-22. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: With a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line, the fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth Rams and the fourth-seeded Michigan Wolverines meet in third- round action at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the South Region of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
VCU improved to 27-8 on the season and advanced to the round of 32 for the third consecutive season with a dominating 88-42 triumph over Akron in the second round, the largest win by a No. 5 seed over a 12-seed in NCAA Tournament history. Not only did it outshoot the Zips from the field, .538 to .349, but it forced 22 turnovers while coughing up the ball just seven times itself in the 46-point win. Troy Daniels shot 6-of-11 from beyond the arc for 23 points, Juvonte Reddic tallied 21 points and six rebounds, while Rob Brandenberg and Melvin Johnson netted 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Michigan (27-7) opened the tournament with a second-round bout against South Dakota State on Thursday night and also came away with a relatively easy victory, as it shot 50.9 percent from the field en route to a 71-56 win. Leading the way for the Wolverines was Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway, Jr., who both tallied 21 points while combining to shoot 8-of-10 from 3-point range. Mitch McGary added 13 points and nine rebounds to the winning effort. The Maize and Blue enjoyed a strong win despite a poor performance from star guard Trey Burke, who shot just 2-of-12 from the field for six points.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the hardwood.
The Rams' offensive explosion on Thursday night was hardly an accident, as they average 77.6 ppg on better than 45 percent efficiency from the field, and it is heavily-reliant on the 3-pointer, making 278 treys (7.9 pg) at a 35.4 percent clip. Despite scoring just six points in the second-round matchup, Treveon Graham usually leads the way with 15.2 ppg, adding 5.9 rpg for good measure. Reddic, the only true forward in VCU's starting five, is an anchor in the low post with 14.6 ppg on 56.7 percent from the field to go with 8.2 rpg, 1.4 spg and 0.9 bpg. Daniels (12.4 ppg) is one of the busiest 3-point shooters in the nation, draining 123-of-299 from long distance (.411), while Brandenberg brings 10.5 ppg to the table. Darius Theus scores fewer than seven points per game, but he has an outstanding assist-to-turnover (166-62) ratio while also logging 2.4 spg. As shown against Akron, VCU has made a habit of dominating the turnover battle, leading the nation with a +8.2 differential.
Despite his lackluster performance in the second round, Trey Burke has been the Wolverines catalyst all season long. The Big Ten Player of the Year has been extremely high-efficient en route to 18.8 ppg, boasting strong percentages from the field (.471), 3-point range (.389) and the foul line (.796), and he is also one of the nation's top floor generals with 229 assists (6.7 pg) compared to just 69 turnovers. Hardaway, Jr. is also in the midst of a strong campaign with 15.0 ppg while grabbing 4.7 rpg as well. Nik Stauskas (11.4 ppg) is lethal from 3-point range, connecting on 72-of-162 from long distance (.444), while Robinson III, a freshman, tallies 11.0 ppg and 5.4 rpg while making nearly 57 percent of his field goal attempts. Michigan has flirted with the elite this season by playing extremely well at both ends of the floor, scoring 75.0 ppg while yielding just 62.7 ppg.
While both teams breezed through their Thursday night matchups, don't expect either squad to run away with this one. Outstanding guard play will be on display for both teams, and whichever can neutralize the other's 3-point attack will likely hold the upper hand. The Wolverines have played better defense than VCU this season, but the Rams' confidence is riding high after holding Akron to a meager 42 points, and expect them to carry that momentum into this third-round clash and to knock off a Michigan squad that has won back-to-back games only twice since the start of February.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Commonwealth 70, Michigan 67
03/23 10:32:50 ET