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Why was VCU unable to unleash Havoc on Michigan?

Mar 23, 2013, 2:20 PM EST

VCU v Michigan Getty Images

Michigan sent Virginia Commonwealth home in decisive fashion on Saturday afternoon, slapping a 78-53 beatdown on a team that quite frankly terrifies most power-conference programs. Michigan dismantled Shaka Smart’s vaunted Havoc defense, and made it look downright easy.

VCU had to be salivating at the thought of advancing past Michigan to face either Kansas or North Carolina in the Sweet 16. Havoc was built for teams with shaky point guards, and those blue blood programs definitely fall into that camp this season – they would have been ripe for the picking.

By now, you can see the flaw in that scenario. It’s the “get past Michigan” part.

Michigan is exactly the sort of team that can dismantle Havoc, and they proved it easily in our first Saturday game.

Let’s look at what VCU was not able to do, and why they weren’t able to do it against the Wolverines specifically.

First of all, the Rams force 19.3 turnovers per game, according to Basketball State. That is far and away above the national average of 13.0 per game. That’s more than just steals, which VCU got at their usual high rate. Turnovers include traveling, charging calls and errant passes that sail out of bounds. Those are the signs of effective Havoc that don’t show up in the box score, and that’s what Michigan was able to avoid.

Despite seven turnovers of his own, Trey Burke played under control and didn’t commit the other cardinal sins a point guard can slip into when under pressure. He was able to break the press early and often. His fellow guards, including backup Spike Albrecht, avoided trouble as well. Perhaps even more impressive, the Michigan big men stayed away from egregious errors in a forest of grasping hands. John Beilein had his entire team playing under control, and that made all the difference.

Second, the Rams did not hit their shots. They were under 40 percent shooting from the floor, and a very uncharacteristic 18.8 percent from deep. Shaka Smart will tell you straight up: if his team doesn’t make shots, they can’t set up the press. The simple act of requiring the opposing team to inbound the ball and fight to cross the time line is a huge part of Havoc, and the Rams couldn’t make it happen in this one.

Why? It’s always the little things. An extra step of quickness and a little more length on the part of Burke and Hardaway can cut off a multitude of angles for an opponent. So, too, can an extra few inches of height on the part of Michigan’s big men. Both bothered VCU, and that’s why they’re going home early today.

So Michigan gets that shot at the Kansas-UNC winner, and you can bet they’re salivating about those point guard matchups as well, after the performance they turned in today.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

  1. polegojim - Mar 23, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Two words… ‘Ball Movement’

    Great Job… GO BLUE!

  2. mydoglouie - Mar 23, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    It was a pretty sweet start to Saturday!

  3. longtallsam - Mar 23, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    I think it is great that VCU has done well with “Havoc”, but the problem with this strategy is that good ball handlers, along with good ball movement, will beat it. Good ball movement beats the press, and the other team ends up with easy shots, usually layups.

    • smosit - Mar 23, 2013 at 8:01 PM

      and Shaka didn’t change it up at all. no zone. no half-court man. down 20 or whatever, he should have switched up the D. the press clearly wasn’t working.

  4. polegojim - Mar 23, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Yes – this stage is all Michigan home games. Definite advantage.

  5. packhawk04 - Mar 23, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    So, vcu was going to take out the overrated wolverines. Michigan blows them off the court. How convienent that it was only because it was in detroit. Losers.

  6. arlingtonsynn - Mar 24, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    Michigan played in the Big10.

    Playing against MSU and Wisc between 2 and 3 times a year does wonders in preparing a team for solid defense.

  7. midnightmaurader - Mar 24, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    midnightmaurader – Mar 20, 2013 at 10:45 PM
    So VCU is gonna ride the havoc defense and turnovers to go deep, even though
    1) Michigan leads the nation in turnover efficiency; and
    2) Michigan struggles with big teams and is better with a smaller lineup, but VCU starts 4 guards and one guy over 6’7?

    So I believe I had that one…March Madness has become analysts going on TV and picking upsets for the sake of upsets and shock value, instead of looking at the matchups sitting right in front of them.

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