A hidden key to VCU-Michigan

People overlook a flaw of the Rams; plus, Gonzaga's status now

Updated: March 22, 2013, 5:41 PM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider
Trey BurkeGregory Shamus/Getty ImagesAlthough the focus for VCU-Michigan is on Trey Burke's offensive navigation, his defense will be key.

In one sense, Virginia Commonwealth's one-sided 88-42 victory over Akron in the round of 64 was typical Rams basketball. Facing Shaka Smart's renowned pressure defense (also known as "Havoc"), the depleted Zips committed 22 turnovers in a 65-possession game, giving Keith Dambrot's team a whopping 34 percent turnover rate. Sounds like a normal VCU game, right?

Here's the funny thing, though. Even on possessions when Akron held on to the ball, the men from the MAC still couldn't score. And if VCU can keep up that level of D on turnover-less, or "effective," possessions against round-of-32 opponent Michigan, it will mark a new development for Smart's team.

I've already had occasion to point out this season that the Rams don't merely force turnovers, they need those turnovers from opponents. Akron notwithstanding, the history of this defense has been that when opponents hang on to the ball, they have a very high level of success. In A-10 play, VCU allowed 1.38 points per turnover-less -- or "effective" -- possession, tied with St. Bonaventure for the worst such figure in the league.

To put it simply: If you don't turn the ball over against VCU, you score a lot. It's a risk/reward defense that does reward on occasion.


To read John Gasaway's full article on VCU-Michigan, plus notes on Gonzaga, Marquette and the Pac-12, you must be an ESPN Insider.