Both South region games were uneventful blowouts on Day 1.
Despite Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke knocking down just two shots, Michigan cruised past South Dakota State in the Round of 64.
It was supposed to be a matchup of two of college basketball’s best point guards in Burke and South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters, but neither of those star players turned in quality performances.
Burke was 2-of-12 on the day and didn’t score that first bucket until nearly midway through the second half. Wolters (3-of-14) finished with 10, but it was Brayden Carlson's 20 that gave Blue and Gold the biggest fit.
Michigan led at halftime thanks to the hot-shooting of Tim Hardaway Jr., who, along with Glenn Robinson III, turned in a game-high 21 points.
The Wolverines were able to get buckets inside and out. They made an impactful change to the starting lineup by inserting freshman Mitch McGary in place of Jordan Morgan. McGary made good on that with his 13 points and nine rebounds. South Dakota State’s defense had no answers for the Michigan squad that briefly held the No. 1 ranking in the country this season.
It wasn’t very competitive in the second half once Michigan established a double-digit lead. The Jackrabbits didn’t do much more than trade baskets with the Wolverines until the game was clearly out of reach.
But we'll say this for Burke: Dude played through the struggles from the field and he shook off a nasty fall in the second half like a true soldier. Burke couldn’t fill it up himself, but he had seven dimes, including two early in the second half that set off Robinson.
And if guys like Robinson and Hardaway are going for 21 apiece, Burke can afford to have an off night. Had this one been close (it wasn’t after halftime), and the Wolverines needed a bucket down the stretch, best believe Trey Burke would’ve had his number called.
VCU walks all over Akron
Shaka Smart was a bit worried about this game going in. The opposing coach was such a good friend of his that Smart invited him to sit in on practices. Keith Dambrot had seen the Rams work on their sets long before Friday night's game.
No need to fret, Coach. Your team won by 46.
Akron just didn't have the horses to run with VCU. Already going without their point guard Alex Abreu, word came that two of the Zips players were battling flu symptoms before the game. Akron played just eight guys and VCU gave them the business. The Rams were up by 25 at halftime and did nothing but pick up where they left off after the break. Eventually, they had the 11th and 12th men playing "significant minutes."
Troy Daniels was an absolute fool from the 3-point line. He knocked down six of them to put in his 23 points for the night.
Friday's games are going to feature the region's heavy-hitters — Kansas taking on Western Kentucky, Georgetown versus Florida Gulf Coast, and Florida against Northwestern State. As a balancing act from Thursday, perhaps one of those matchups will provide some suspense.
What down year?
How cool is it to have VCU pitted against Michigan and you can say with a straight face that the two programs are on an even playing field, for the most part? Not enough can be said for what this "down year" has meant for the mid-major. It made college basketball even more inclusive. This is only bad if you can't tolerate the inconsistent quality of basketball. Premature chatter, but a hypothetical Final Four scenario that includes Gonzaga and VCU, seems like it would only be fitting for a season such as this.