VCU coach Shaka Smart's "Havoc" defense will put the focus on Michigan point guard Trey Burke, the Big Ten player of the year. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — March has become somewhat synonymous with the NCAA Tournament and "Madness" or "Mayhem" monikers.
For Michigan, add "Havoc" to the list.
That's the term coined by Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart to describe his team's full-court pressure defense. That defense will be unleashed on Michigan in today's third round of the NCAA South Regional at The Palace.
For VCU, the Havoc defense forces 11.8 steals (No. 1 in the nation) and 19.9 turnovers, also the best. The pressure places a premium on reliable ballhandling, something Michigan has done well all season, leading the nation with the fewest turnovers (9.2).
That puts the focus on Michigan point guard Trey Burke, the Big Ten player of the year.
"The challenge is just playing patient, really," Burke said Friday. "We haven't played a lot of teams in the Big Ten that press the way that they do — well, we haven't played anyone.
"We just have to play patient, play smart and limit turnovers."
Michigan's patience will be tested, as well its stamina, with Tim Hardaway Jr. and freshmen Spike Albrecht, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III seeing more of the ballhandling responsibilities.
"They might try to double Trey and not let him get the ball from out of bounds," said Robinson, who tied his career high with 21 points Thursday. "We're going to need guys like Tim, Nik and myself to step up and Spike Albrecht to handle that pressure and make smart decisions out of it."
For Michigan, overcoming the Havoc could lead to advantages, with Robinson, Hardaway and big man Mitch McGary going to the basket.
"It's always a risk-reward situation," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "If you press, you're extending your defense past half court. That's why most people don't press because they want to get back and pack it in."
"But that's not what we do. You know, we press. We extend our defense. We try to make teams uncomfortable."
Michigan saw a similar style when it defeated Arkansas, 80-67, in December. But VCU's style is faster and more relentless.
"It's definitely a test," Burke said. "Arkansas didn't run and jump as much as VCU does but they definitely pressured us the way VCU does and it looked similar on film. We'll just try to find different ways to attack their pressure."
Michigan coach John Beilein has seen his share of defenses and gimmicks over the years, but sees the VCU Havoc as a formidable scheme.
"VCU's found a way to be able to press and still not give out open looks," Beilein said. "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 (in Big Ten play)."
With VCU's 46-point domination of Akron on Thursday, there was more focus on its success with the press. The Wolverines stayed at The Palace and watched the first half — and were impressed, comparing them to some of the nation's best defenders.
"On tape, it looks slower but when you're watching it live, it looks a lot faster," Hardaway said. "They have five Victor Oladipos and Aaron Crafts all on the same team out there."