Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke ran during practice Friday in preparation for Saturday's game with VCU, but he also spent plenty of time on the sidelines stretching his sore back. Burke hit the floor hard in the second half of U-M's second round NCAA Tournament game with South Dakota State, but he said he'd be ready to go against the up tempo Rams.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "Obviously my back is a little sore. I did a lot of treatment and recovery for it today, but for the most part I feel okay."
The Michigan - VCU match-up is one of the most anticipated of the round of 32, and Burke is relishing the moment. He knows the spotlight will be on him against the Rams' havoc defense.
Arkansas and West Virginia both pressured the ball, but the Wolverines were successful against both in the non-conference.
"Coach Beilein does a really good job of showing us different ways and different options to attack different teams," Burke said. "If it's taking back dribbles and retreat dribbles and finding the next open man, or hitting the next man on the outside hand so the defender can't shoot the lane to get a steal. Backdoor cuts, just different options and different ways to hit the open man - it depends on the defensive tendency of the team we're playing.
"The challenge is just playing patient, really. We haven't played a lot of teams in the Big Ten that press the way that they do - we haven't played anyone like that. So we just have to play patient, play smart and limit turnovers. They score off of turnovers really well - we just have to try not to allow them to force havoc and just play patient, play at our own pace."
Others will have to step up
It won't be a one-man show, either, especially given the amount of attention VCU will show Burke.
"I think they're going to stress a lot to try to get the ball out of Trey Burke's hands and just try to do the best they can to make myself, Nik Stauskas, and even Caris LeVert bring the ball up the court," Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "We're definitely going to stress bringing the ball up the court with confidence and just try to get ourselves into offense."
The Rams also have scorers and shooters, making them tough to guard when they're at their best.
"Their quickness is incredible, how quick they can get to the rim," head coach John Beilein said. "Once again, we're going to see a very experienced team. They have one sophomore in the starting lineup, two juniors, two seniors that have experienced a lot of success at VCU in a very short time.
"It's going to be difficult. They get downhill as good as any team that we've seen. They do have a nice complement of inside/outside game, and I think I've had one - with all the shooters we've had at Richmond, Canisius, West Virginia here, I've only had one player ever have 100 threes in a year, and that young man, [Troy Daniels], with 119 threes, that's like astronomical to have that unless you're like the only good player on that team."
It will be Michigan's youth against VCU's experience, the way it's been most of the year. There should be opportunities on offense, however - how the Wolverines take advantage will determine whether or not they make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994.
"There are some really big challenges for us defensively, and because of our roster makeup, frankly that's been every game," Beilein said. "If you could picture if VCU had three or four freshman out there a lot, [the other] night we had two guys - Jordan Morgan played one minute, we had two guys that ever played in an NCAA game. So this is great stuff for us right now to learn what it's like to play at this level."
Beilein is most impressed with the way VCU is able to defend when teams do break their press.
"People that were playing presses earlier would pay for it," he said. "VCU's found a way to be able to press and still not give out open looks. You have to have superior quickness to do that. They do. You have to have a great plan and a changing scheme, which they do.
"But it's something that we don't see. It reminds me of when we were playing the one-three-one a lot. That used to be very common, and when he we started running it, it was very uncommon - it's uncommon again, but people really didn't have that plan in place. So I think that's so unique. It makes it so difficult for every team."