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Friday, March 22, 2013
VCU will be a tough matchup for Michigan

By Michael Rothstein


 
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- VCU has spent much of this season flustering opposing point guards, sending them into various states of disarray and their "Havoc"  defense wreaked, well, havoc on the plans of opponents all season long.

The Rams, though, have not seen an offense quite like the one they will Saturday in the round of 32. VCU turns everyone over. Michigan, with its sophomore point guard Trey Burke, hardly ever gives up the ball.

Something has to give.

“It’s a difference of style,” VCU sophomore guard Briante Weber said. “If they take care of the ball, they win. If we get them to turn over, then we win.”

It may come off as that simple, but trying to beat Havoc is anything but.

Akron vs. VCU
VCU's "Havoc" defense forced Akron into 21 turnovers during the Rams' first-round rout.
Michigan spent Friday morning looking at variations of VCU’s Havoc, then walked through the varying press breaks it would try to use to stop it.

It is not something the Wolverines can simulate. Other teams have tried and failed.

“We really haven’t seen pressure like that in my years of being here,” said Memphis junior guard Chris Crawford, whose Tigers lost to VCU 78-65 in November. “We had to adjust to it, but it was like they were everywhere.”

That is part of the plan. VCU spends its entire preseason working on conditioning and defense in an effort to run Havoc at almost all times, forcing opponents to flail about and start to see passing lanes that aren’t really there.

It happened for Memphis, which turned the ball over 22 times in that loss. That number is what the Rams have averaged in their 27 wins this season. They have blitzed opponents left and right with a press that can have a multitude of variations, depending on the opponent.

“We just try to deny the wings,” VCU guard Darius Theus said. “Team stops, actually. Just build a wall around the basket.”

The wall, at times, can seem impenetrable. It took Memphis a half to figure out exactly how to move the ball up the floor against VCU. And trying to do it with one primary point guard alone won’t work, either.

“What’s crazy is it’s one thing to try and prepare for it,” Memphis assistant Damon Stoudamire said. “When we actually seen it, it started our guys on the initial. If we played them now, we’d be prepared.

“When you see stuff like that, the way it came, it’s like a barrage, boom, boom, boom, boom. And they made shots. They turning you over and then they score, that’s a bad recipe right there.”

The key is to not try and go up the sides of the floor. Doing that will be the high-risk, high-reward maneuver for Michigan. If it beats VCU up the side, it’ll have a fast break. If it doesn’t -- it’ll be a likely turnover.

And it needs to get more than just Burke involved, using guards Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and maybe even backup point guard Spike Albrecht as options.

“Our guys have to stay connected,” Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan said. “They are all connected defensively with their rotations and their traps. We have to be connected offensively.”

Someone will get disjointed Saturday. Whichever team doesn’t likely will end up winning.

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