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Why was VCU unable to unleash Havoc on Michigan?

Mar 23, 2013, 2:20 PM EDT

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.

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