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.