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Harvard's Siyani Chambers (left) and Christian Webster (right) celebrate after defeating New Mexico 68-62 in Salt Lake City Thursday.
Friday, March 22, 2013
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Michigan's poise and VCU's pressure.
Control versus chaos.
This NCAA tournament matchup will indeed be strength against strength.
"They're trying to wreak havoc," Wolverines coach John Beilein said. "We love to be able to get a shot every time up the floor. You can shoot a lower percentage and have a bad night, but if you get a shot every time, it's really a game of possessions."
Fourth-seeded Michigan takes on fifth-seeded VCU on Saturday in what could be the weekend's most anticipated game. The Wolverines are the best team in the nation at avoiding turnovers, and nobody forces them quite like the Rams. Throw in Beilein and Shaka Smart, two respected coaches with postseason experience - and Michigan star Trey Burke, whose job is to direct the Wolverines through VCU's press - and this has all the makings of a classic.
"They always have terrific spacing on the floor, but more so than that, it's about their personnel," Smart said. "They've got great guards. Trey Burke is a lot of people's pick for national player of the year. I haven't seen a guard better than him."
Michigan (27-7) was ranked No. 1 in the nation earlier this season, but the Wolverines slipped to a No. 4 seed after a difficult stretch run in the Big Ten. Michigan is playing about 50 miles from its Ann Arbor campus this weekend, but VCU (27-8) sent an emphatic warning to future opponents with an 88-42 victory over Akron in its NCAA tournament opener Thursday night.
Former William Fleming star Troy Daniels had 23 points and Juvonte Reddic scored 21 for VCU in that one. 'Havoc' is the word the Rams use to describe their pressure - and it was certainly accurate Thursday, when Akron turned the ball over 22 times.
The Rams force an average of 19.9 turnovers per game, the most in the nation. Michigan only commits 9.2 per game, which is the fewest in the nation. Burke, along with fellow guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas, will face a major test - one the Big Ten didn't really prepare them for.
In fact, the Wolverines have to look all the way back to December to find an opponent on their schedule that reminds them of VCU.
"Arkansas was a team that plays similar," Burke said. "They pressed pretty much the whole game."
Michigan beat the Razorbacks 80-67, turning the ball over 12 times. VCU is an NCAA tournament team and Arkansas is not, but that game illustrates the challenge facing the Rams. If the Wolverines can get the ball across halfcourt, can VCU stop them?
"It's always a risk-reward situation. If you press, you're extending your defense past halfcourt," Smart said. "That's why most people don't press, because they want to get back and pack it in. But that's not what we do."
Harvard victory wrecks brackets nationwide
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Michael Lesley crisscrossed Harvard Yard, looking up from his copy of David Hume's "The Natural History of Religion" only to avoid the tourists that shuffled through the snow-covered quadrangle.
Did he bother to watch Harvard's victory over No. 10 New Mexico on Thursday night, the first NCAA tournament win in school history?
Will Lesley, a fourth-year doctoral student in religion, tune in when the Crimson play Arizona for a spot in the Sweet 16 on Saturday?
"Absolutely. Are you kidding me?" he said on Friday afternoon, a day after the Ivy League champions upset the third-seeded and heavily favored Lobos 68-62 in Salt Lake City.
"I think the attitude was, 'We'll see what happens,'" said Lesley, who followed the reaction to the game on Facebook. "To see everyone light up, it is exciting."
The oldest and perhaps the most prestigious university in the nation, Harvard has produced a handful of U.S. presidents, dozens of Nobel Laureates and enough bankers, lawyers and politicians (and comedy writers) to prompt the Harvard Lampoon to tweet after the game: "America, we are sorry for messing up your brackets and also your financial system and everything else."
Baylor 89, Arizona St. 86
WACO, Texas - Pierre Jackson had 26 points and had 16 assists to lead Baylor over Arizona State on Friday night in the second round of the NIT.
Cory Jefferson added 21 points, Brady Heslip had 14 and Isaiah Austin 13 for Baylor (20-14).
Carrick Felix scored 23 points to lead Arizona State (22-13). Jahii Carson - the top-scoring freshman in the country - had 20 points, Chris Colvin scored 15 and Evan Gordon 14.
Baylor was up 84-78 with 44 seconds left before Arizona State cut it to 85-83 with 26 seconds to play. Jefferson hit one free throw to put Baylor back up by three, but Carson turned the ball over under the Sun Devils' basket.
The teams combined to shoot 10 free throws in the final 24 seconds.
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