VCU v Michigan

Michigan makes Havoc look Harmless, moves on to the Sweet 16

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For the second time in three days, No. 4 seed Michigan made the pundits that earned them “trendy upset pick” status look foolish.

On Thursday, the Wolverines shut down South Dakota State and the Fighting Nate Wolters, winning by 15 points in a game that Trey Burke decided not to show up. Saturday’s performance against No. 5 seed VCU was much more impressive, however. Michigan made Havoc seem Harmless, carving up VCU’s vaunted press while ripping the life-blood — effort and tenacity — out of the hearts of the Rams.

The 78-53 win may have been the most impressive performance of the tournament to date.

And for the second straight game, Michigan did it despite the fact that their superstar — our National Player of the Year — played far from his best game.

A quick glance at the box score won’t tell you much, as Burke finished with 18 points and six assists. But he also committed seven of Michigan’s 12 turnovers and seemed to have the most trouble handling VCU’s press of anyone on the Michigan roster.

But that didn’t matter. Tim Hardaway Jr. played very well early in the first half, dribbling through VCU’s pressure and helping to force VCU from abandoning the strategy of double-teaming Burke before the ball was inbounded to keep it out of his hands. Glenn Robinson III finished with 14 points and nine boards, giving him 35 points and 15 boards during the first weekend while shooting 15-19 from the floor.

And then there was Mitch McGary.

The big center has taken over the starting role from Jordan Morgan, and based on the way that he played on Saturday, he won’t be giving it back anytime soon. McGary had 21 points on 10-11 shooting and grabbed 14 boards, and while his production was impressive, McGary provided so much more. He drilled VCU’s resident ballhawk Briante Weber twice with (legal) screens. He grabbed a defensive rebound at one end and sprinted down the floor, getting a dunk at the other end. He dove on the floor. He bodied up Juvonte Reddic. He made every single hustle play that he was physically capable of.

Many of the points that McGary scored were the result of a) being set up by his teammates for an open dunk or b) grabbing an offensive rebound or coming up with a loose ball in the right spot at the right time.

McGary set the tone against a team that prides themselves on setting the tone. He provided toughness and effort against a team that thrives on toughness and effort. He played a huge role in killing the spirit of the Rams on Saturday.

Scott Van Pelt has a saying that he uses on Sportscenter quite often: “How good is your good?”

Michigan proved this weekend that their good is really, really good.

Now imagine what happens when Trey Burke really gets it going.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.