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March 28, 2013Much has been made of Kansas seven-footer Jeff Withey's potential impact in the paint in Friday night's Sweet 16 match-up with Michigan, and rightfully so. He's already broken Wilt Chamberlain's school record for career blocked shots and is only seven away from tying Tim Duncan's NCAA tournament record of 50.
On the other end, when he's deep in the paint, his long wing span allows him to shoot over people and grab offensive rebounds without going over the back.
Withey spoke Thursday of seeing U-M freshman Mitch McGary walking around Cowboys Stadium, calling him "big and strong," but not overly impressed with his height. He responded 'Yes, I expect to dominate' when asked and said he could 'definitely' have an impact on both ends.
"Our whole defense of this game will not be letting them get in the paint," Withey said. "I'll definitely be in there. I know they're probably going to attack the paint, and they're not going to change anything. They'll probably try getting me in foul trouble and stuff like that, but we've been preparing for them. We know what their offense is like.
"We're going to do whatever we can to try to keep them away from the paint."
McGary dominated against a smaller VCU team in his last outing, notching 21 points and 14 rebounds. He acknowledged Thursday that getting Withey off his feet and into foul trouble was precisely part of his strategy.
Withey's strategy, meanwhile, is to continue to do what he does best. McGary's motor impressed him on film, though he did say the Wolverines reminded him of North Carolina in the way they played small and spread teams out.
"Just how physical he plays, how hard he plays," Withey said. "He loves to dive after loose balls. He loves to screen people, enjoys hitting somebody, so I know he's going to be a tough guy to play against. He's going to be physical.
"But I'm not going to change my game plan. I'm not going to change the way I play. I'm going to try to match his effort and be fine."
His teammates think so, too.
"I think it's a huge key knowing that Jeff is behind us and altering shots," guard Travis Releford said. "That gives us the confidence to pressure a guard further out and if we get beat, we know we've got Jeff back there to block the shot or alter it. That gives us a lot of confidence."
"I think Travis is without question our best on‑ball defender, and you could make the case that he could be the best perimeter defender in our league," he said. "You could make a case for others, too. I think Travis probably doesn't get as much [credit] as he deserves."
Senior Elijah Johnson said he couldn't compare Burke's game to anyone he'd seen.
"Honestly, he has a different kind of feel for the game," he said. "He looks like he's moving in slow motion to me. I've been looking at films, seeing how he plays, but I can't compare him to another guard."
It will take a team effort to slow him, Self said.
"The way you play Michigan is probably similar to the way you'd want to guard Carolina, because they play four guards, so Michigan is basically playing four guards - Glenn [Robinson III] is a big, big guard, he's still a guy with perimeter skills," Self said.
"So it comes down to not necessarily how one guy guards one, it's how any of your guys guard that individual when he has the ball, because there could be a lot of switching involved. That's probably something that will take place."
"But their numbers are good. You only turn the ball over nine times a game as opposed to a team like us that could turn it over 14 or 15, there's six extra possessions, there's an opportunity to score 18 more points, potentially ‑ 12 to 18. That's something that we have to do a good job with, and we need to force them to make mistakes, which they don't make many. Then we have to do a great job against their defense, where we don't give them easy baskets off of our offensive miscues, and we've got to make some extra possessions off the glass.
"They do a lot of things well and they've got terrific personnel, and when you have a point guard like that, he can make the game easier for everybody else."
Michigan's 6-6 record down the stretch isn't indicative of the kind of team the Wolverines have, he added.
"The reason they're 6-6 or 6-5 over that period of time is look at who there losses were to, and the majority of them were on the road," he said. "They've got one loss that you would think: How did that happen? Like we've got one loss, how did that happen? And it happens.
"The biggest reason why their record was .500 for the last ten games is Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, back-to-back to back-to-back. Those are hard teams, especially when you're playing away from home. So we don't put much stock in that at all."