The fourth-seeded Michigan Wolverines cruised past fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth 78-53 Saturday to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Freshman Mitch McGary dominated in the paint, finishing with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
McGary has come on strong of late, including 13 points and nine rebounds in the Wolverines first round win over South Dakota State. The win over VCU sends Michigan to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1994.
Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke fared much better from the floor against the Rams in comparison to his 2-for-12 shooting performance in the first round. Burke finished with 18 points and seven assists Saturday as the Wolverines rolled over the Rams just two days after VCU crushed Akron by 46 points.
The Rams have appeared in each of the last three NCAA tournaments, including a run to the Final Four in 2011. VCU was sent home early in 2013 as Michigan’s transition game got the best of them. The Wolverines outscored the Rams 19-0 in transition in the first half for a 38-23 lead.
It was more of the same in the second half, as Michigan pulled away from VCU by wearing out an already exhausted squad. The Rams were relentless against the Zips in the first round and continued playing at a fast pace well after the game was out of reach. Head coach Shaka Smart’s decision to keep up the pressure against Akron may have backfired against an upbeat Michigan team.
VCU gave up too many easy baskets in the second half, and Mitch McGary was an unstoppable force on the boards while shooting 10-for-11 from the field. Tim Hardaway Jr. also made a huge impact for the Wolverines, running the offense as needed as VCU pressured Trey Burke into seven turnovers.
Michigan will face the winner of Sunday’s match-up between first-seeded Kansas and eighth-seeded North Carolina on Friday in the Sweet Sixteen. Both Kansas and UNC barely made it out the first round, as Villanova gave the Tar Heels trouble late before Western Kentucky led at the half and almost stunned Kansas.
Michigan has had a much smoother start, beating South Dakota St. and VCU by a combined total of 40 points. Their transition game proved Saturday that they can run with the best teams in the country, but Trey Burke’s struggles could hurt the Wolverines later in the tournament. Will Michigan continue their impressive play in the Sweet Sixteen?