Michigan feeling ‘sweet' once again

Mitch McGary & Glenn Robinson - USA TODAY Sports

All of the talk over the 48 hours leading up to Michigan's third round match-up with VCU centered on the Wolverines ability to handle the 'havoc.' Michigan handled it and then some, sending the Rams home while the Wolverines pack their bags for the Sweet 16.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- It took 19 years, several losses, NCAA sanctions, coaching changes, and a bevy of support from the athletic department but finally the Michigan Wolverine basketball program can say they are 'Sweet 16' bound once again.

After calmly disposing of a dangerous South Dakota State team Thursday afternoon, Michigan took to the floor of the Palace Saturday at 12:15 fully prepared for the havoc VCU would try to -- but ultimately -- fail to create. Handling the full court pressure, the Wolverines plan of attack wasn't to stand around waiting for the Ram's corner traps to form. The plan was to force the ball up the floor in a hurry, exposing the middle, and throwing down easy buckets.

And the strategy worked to near perfection as Michigan handled VCU 78-53, sending themselves into a match-up with the winner of Sunday's Kansas/North Carolina game -- a date set for this Friday inside Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

"We're so pleased with this W today because we knew we were playing a team -- you look at the scores, you see who they've played," said Michigan coach John Beilein afterwards. "They're a very efficient team and they have a unique style that, you know, one-day prep concerned us.

"However, these guys -- this is a very high IQ team that can pick up things very quickly, and really responded.  I mean, responded."

Michigan turned the ball over 12 times for the game with seven coming out of the hands of Trey Burke, still finishing his afternoon with 18 points and seven assists amid the Rams relentless approach.

"I was excited," said Burke. "You know, VCU, they're a heck of a team.  They're coached by a really good coach. And I knew that they were going to bring it.  I knew that they were going to run and jump and turn me over. 

"I knew it wasn't going to be a perfect game for any of us.  So I just tried to find different ways to attack it, find different ways to get the ball in the middle, get out of transitions to try to get numbers."

That's exactly what Michigan did lead by freshman center Mitch McGary, fresh off of his 13 point, nine rebound performance Thursday, McGary, who started for the second straight game, upped those totals putting together a career-high 21 points and, also career high, 14 rebounds, controlling the defensive glass, holding the Rams to one shot.

The highlight of the game for McGary came on a hard screen on VCU's Briante Weber. A thump heard round the Palace.

"That's what he does," said Burke. "You know, when we're in transition, sometimes he stops and sets screens, and I seen him stopping, so I'm used it.  I heard the crowd say oh and I didn't know what happened really.  But I see my man on the floor and I had the 7-foot jump shot, so I just shot it and knocked it down.

"He brings intensity to this game and he's kind of like our X factor.  He's the guy that gives us the spark and makes our engine run in the front court."

Glenn Robinson III assisted his frontcourt mate with a near double double himself, finishing the afternoon with 14 points and nine rebounds.

But the other spark?

Freshman point guard Spike Albrecht sliced and diced VCU's press in 15 minutes of action, threading the needle on a pass that set up Robinson III for an easy two-handed slam in transition.

"Anybody who's ever played basketball, when you're dribbling and people are doubling you and people are doing all kinds of things, it is tiring," said Beilein. "So that was huge for Spike to be able to come in and just give him some rest, and he was standing on the chair (after the game) singing the Victors because our team loves him."

Tim Hardaway Jr. continued his hot shooting, finishing his day with 14 points including three triples and a highlight reel dunk that was worth the price of admission.

After plenty of celebration, applause, and a few rounds of the victors, Michigan now turns their attention to the Sweet 16 with either Kansas or North Carolina posing their next challenge Friday.

"Our philosophy is always going to be we're just trying to get better every day," said Beilein. "We're just trying to do the right things, and there's going to be times that we will play this well as we did today and we'll advance.

"At the University of Michigan, right, we want to be champions, and we're trying for Big Ten championships.  And when you get in the NCAA tournament, you're trying to do the exact same thing."

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