At the end of the first half of his team's 78-53 throttling of VCU in a round of 32 NCAA tournament game Saturday afternoon, Michigan forward Mitch McGary flattened Rams guard Briante Weber on a screen at the top of the key.
The sequence was the perfect metaphor for the entire game.
A matchup expected to be one of the more intriguing of the opening weekend fizzled in a hurry because Michigan outclassed VCU in all respects. Not only were the Wolverines clicking on all cylinders, they also posed all kinds of matchup problems for a Rams team that relies on its swarming pressure defense to force turnovers.
With the nation's premier point guard and numerous other guards capable of handling the ball and knocking down shots, Michigan was less susceptible to VCU's full-court pressure than the majority of teams in the field. The Wolverines only turned the ball over 12 times and they consistently made the Rams pay after beating the pressure, often with Trey Burke feeding McGary for layups or dunks.
McGary scored a season-high 21 points on 10 of 11 shooting, a breakout performance for a 6-foot-10 freshman who arrived with high expectations this year but had previously made a greater impact defensively and on the glass. The Wolverines shot 51.8 percent from the field with Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III all scoring 14 or more points as well.
[Photo gallery: Best photos of the NCAA tournament]
Short-circuiting all hope of VCU staying competitive was the Rams' off-target shooting and some calls that went against them.
VCU shot a feeble 3 0f 16 from behind the arc and missed a number of first-half floaters in the lane that could have helped keep the score in single digits heading into halftime. Darius Theus sat most of the first half after picking up two early fouls and center Juvonte Reddic also missed long stretches because of foul trouble.
The question now for VCU is the same as it always seems to be this time of year: Will Shaka Smart be back on the sideline next season? He has turned down overtures from Oregon and Illinois among others in the past, but there's a chance UCLA could be among his suitors this spring.
In the other locker room, it was time to look ahead to the Sweet 16, where Michigan will see either top-seeded Kansas or eighth-seeded North Carolina.
It's tempting to tout Michigan as a Final Four favorite – especially if McGary continues to provide hustle plays, energy and offense – but it's probably worth resisting the urge to overhype the Wolverines. This is a team not long removed from fading late in the regular season and in the Big Ten tournament as the strength of its league and the burden of scoring enough to make up for a mediocre defense took its toll.
Michigan defended well Saturday and capitalized on a favorable matchup. Tougher tests await in Arlington, but the Wolverines can overcome them if they at as high a level as they did Saturday.
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