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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Michigan basketball team now prepares for havoc.
It’s not the type of scourge that brings down houses, but it’s instead a relentless, pressuring style of defense that thrives on wearing down its opponents and forces them into making a number of mistakes.
A defense that, ultimately, could wreak havoc on the Wolverines’ postseason basketball hopes. No. 4 seed Michigan faces fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in an NCAA tournament South regional game at 12:15 p.m. today at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“That’s VCU’s whole mind-set, is to turn you over,” Michigan guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., said. “They’re going to play that havoc defense and they’re going to do a great job of it. 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 it.”
Two years ago, VCU became one of the many NCAA Tournament spoiler teams with a win over Kansas in the 2011 Elite Eight. Now, the Atlantic 10 Conference program is consistently mentioned as one of the mid-major darlings of college basketball.
Some college basketball pundits went so far as to project that the winner of today’s third-round game will appear in the Final Four, and today’s winner will face either Kansas-Western Kentucky or North Carolina-Villanova next week in a Sweet Sixteen game in Arlington, Texas.
It’s the first of two third-round games today at the Palace; third seed Michigan State faces No. 6 seed Memphis in the second half of the doubleheader at 2:45 p.m. in a Midwest regional game.
While the Tigers and the Spartans prepare for a matchup of athleticism, the Wolverines prepare for a Rams team that is No. 1 in the nation in its turnover margin (8.2) — VCU forced its opponents into 697 turnovers, while it committed 409 in 35 games. In Thursday’s 88-42 win over No. 12 Akron, the Zips committed 21 turnovers to VCU’s five.
Michigan point guard Trey Burke said the key for his team is to be patient when it faces “havoc” — a defense akin to Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” at Arkansas.
“We haven’t played a lot of teams in Big Ten that press the way that they do,” Burke said. “We haven’t played anyone [like this]. We have to play patient, play smart, and limit turnovers. They score off of turnovers really well. They call their defense havoc. So we have to try not to allow them to force havoc. Just play patient, play at our own pace.”
Against Memphis, Michigan State believes that both its decision making when it comes to ball possession and its inside presence will be key elements. The Spartans will need to assert effort quickly after a slow start Thursday, which limited forward Derrick Nix’s first-half effectiveness in a 65-54 win over 14th seed Valparaiso.
“I feel like whenever we go up against a different opponent, everybody has advantages,” Spartans point guard Keith Appling said. “We feel like one of ours is our low post presses. So going into [today], we’re probably going to try to pound the ball inside and let our bigs make something happen for us.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.