USA TODAY Sports
If Michigan survives its 4/13 game on Thursday vs. South Dakota State, the Wolverines are probably going to face a very tough VCU team.
VCU is not one of those teams you want to see in the second round.
The Rams have in Shaka Smart's four years, been one of the best mid-major teams in the country, and easily, the most successful. His second year saw VCU make the final four, and last year VCU narrowly missed a Sweet Sixteen birth after a two-point loss to Indiana.
This year, VCU has put together a very good regular season. The Rams finished second in the Atlantic 10 behind Saint. Louis (losing both in the regular season and in the conference tournament final), and compiled an overall record of 26-8.
The Rams lost three in the non-conference, all three respectable losses. A two point loss at the hands of WItchta St at home, a nine point loss to Duke, and a three point loss to Missouri. Meanwhile, VCU piled up wins against Kenpom top-100 teams like Memphis, Belmont, Alabama, and Lehigh.
The conference season and tournament saw the Rams add eight more Kenpom top-100 wins including two each against Saint Joseph's and UMass, and one against Butler.
VCU has an impressive cast of players, and the Rams don't have one player that averages over 30 minutes per game.
Treveon Graham has the highest usage rate on the team, and he leads the way with 15.5 points per game. He is both a deep threat (36 percent from three) and a threat to attack the basket and get points (5.5 fouls drawn per forty, 73 percent FT%).
The 6'9 Juvonte Reddic leads the team in both OR% and DR% and shoots 57 percent from the floor. He holds down the middle for VCU both offensively and defensively. On offense he scores 14.4 ppg and has the second best offensive rating on the team (117.9). On defense, he leads the team in block rate, averages almost a steal and a half per game, and has a very favorable foul rate (41.0).
Darius Theus runs the point, and he does so in commanding fashion on both ends. His assist rate is 30.1 (tops on the team and 102nd overall in Kenpom's individual rankings), and his steal rate is 5.4 (second only to Briante Weber on the team, and 6th nationally ). He is also a capable, if underused, three point shooter at 34 percent on 44 attempts.
Troy Daniels is "just a shooter". He has hit 40 percent of his 288 three-point attempts. He also has just 43 two-point attempts and 25 FT attempts. Rob Brandenburg is the other starter, and another athletic scorer/defender, that shoots 34 percent from deep with a good steal percentage.
Melvin Johnson, Briante Weber, and Teddy Okereafor all get time off the bench, and all boast impressive steal percentages.
Steals. The Rams have got them. Lots of them. VCU leads the nation in defensive TO% at 28.7, as well as steal percentage at 17.1 -- both a full percentage point ahead of second place Louisville. VCU will force turnovers, and lots of them. Michigan's top rated TO% offense could have a swift test.
Consistency. Soph guard Briante Weber averages 2.9 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game, and 2.8 steals per game. The man knows what he likes. Not quite three.
VCU is not a fun matchup. If Michigan meets the Rams in the second round, it will see a strong defensive team that excels when creating chaos. The Rams play at a fast pace (adj tempo 68.4, 63rd fastest nationally) and can exploit mistakes quickly. The VCU offense has a similar offensive profile to Michigan: shoot a high eFG%, don't turn the ball over, hit the offensive boards, and do all of it without getting to the line. On the other side of the ball, VCU is the polar opposite. Where Michigan is an inconsistent, on-its-heels defense, VCU is a constant attack.
If this matchup happens, Michigan won't have to worry about too much of a dedicated post presence, but with the Wolverine's struggles defending the three at times this year, things could swing quickly if Michigan's offense isn't its normal careful self with the ball. While Trey Burke can handle himself against this defense, Michigan's wings are going to have to deal with this pressure defense on the perimeter and still find shots. Meanwhile, Michigan is going to need an active day from Mitch McGary and the rest of the fives, as VCU has a weakness keeping opposing offenses off their own glass.
This is a game that Michigan could win if it came down to it, but a lot of people are picking VCU in their bracket for a reason.