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NCAA tournament: Michigan-VCU headlines whatever round this is

Trey Burke leads Michigan into a matchup with the VCU Rams on Saturday. (Source: Michigan Athletics) Trey Burke leads Michigan into a matchup with the VCU Rams on Saturday. (Source: Michigan Athletics)
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(RNN) – Dear NCAA: We all really like your tournament. It's the best. This whole First Four-first round thing needs to go though.

Love, everybody.

The powers-that-be decided to count the First Four, four play-in games to get to the field of 64 teams, as the first round. The games are fine; it's the "round" part that makes no sense.

This begins year two of the campaign to get this changed, so I'll just go over some highlights:

The "first round" happened Tuesday and Wednesday. It involved eight teams.

So 60 of the tourney's 68 teams got a first-round bye. That's more ridiculous than when Daniel-san only had to fight in the finals in The Karate Kid, Part III.

Everything else about the plot for The Karate Kid, Part III remains the most ridiculous thing ever.

Half the games in the "first round" involve 16 seeds.

I have no problem with the smaller programs getting their own showcase. But until a 16 beats a 1 seed (0-116 record), there's no way you'll convince me those teams are playing for anything other than getting torched like a snake in this lady's yard.

Remember people, "it's not unusual for a burning animal to spread a fire."

The "first round" forgets the most marketable part of the Big Dance: The bracket.

If nothing else gets to the decision makers, this one should. Filling out the brackets is a big part of what makes the tournament so popular to the casual fans.

You know what people do with the First Four when they fill out the bracket? They ignore it. The empire dedicated to sports that runs the biggest online bracket contest? It ignores it, too.

Does the network that paid millions to carry the entire tournament even show the games? Sorry, LL Cool J and the guy from Summer School need to solve crimes that night.

Despite the general consensus that the rounds are confusing, the tournament brain-trust seems intent on keeping it. My guess is the folks in the collective are so used to getting things right they assume they can do no wrong.

Well, you did. But it's OK; we all make mistakes. Hey, dry those eyes, misters and misses. You know what I do when I'm feeling down? I sing a little song. Feel free to join in.

"Cause you had a bad day … You're taking one down … You sing a sad song just to turn it around …"

Game of the weekend:

VCU Rams (5) vs. Michigan Wolverines (4), 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday

Remember when Auric Goldfinger tried to break into Fort Knox? This game is kind of like that. I'm not sure who James Bond is in the scenario yet, but I'll get there.

Coach Shaka Smart's Rams use a defense they refer to, rather accurately, as the Havoc. After every made shot, they defend the other team across all 94 feet of the court. They used it in the "hey, that's not fair" 88-42 win Thursday over the Akron Zips, who had their point guard out due to suspension.

VCU's constant pressure on the ball handler causes a bunch of turnovers – 402 this season, to be exact.

That breaks down to 11.8 per game, or the best average in the nation. Guess who's the best at not giving the rock away?

Michigan's Big Ten Player of the Year, national player of the year finalist, All-American, all-around nice guy and Sean Connery stand-in (found him!) Trey Burke keeps things locked down. The sophomore point guard only gives up the ball twice per game on average, pretty good since he gets it back nearly an equal amount (1.6 steals) and dishes out 6.7 assists.

The whole team only combines for nine turnovers per game, better than anyone else in the country and - I'm just guessing on these - Canada and Chinese Taipei, too.

Burke also usually scores a lot (18.8 ppg) but had an off-night Thursday against South Dakota State University and their fearsome mascot, the Jackrabbit. Teammates Glenn "Little Big Dog" Robinson III and Tim "Tim Hardaway's Kid" Hardaway Jr. picked him up with 21 points apiece, and the Wolverines won 71-56.

Not bad either:

Memphis Tigers (6) vs. Michigan State Spartans (3), 2:45 p.m. Saturday

This should be an uptempo meeting between two fast, athletic teams. Sparty takes the edge in coaching with Tom Izzo, but Memphis coach Josh Pastner is neck-and-neck with Butler's Brad Stevens for "head of major program most likely to get carded buying beer." So that's something.

The Tigers have an experienced rotation, mostly juniors, that was 0-2 at the dance for the last two years. Point guard Joe Jackson had 14 points and seven assists Thursday as they broke through for a tourney win in 2013, 54-52 over St. Mary's.

All the pundits seem certain these guys aren't going any further than this, so they may have a Sweet Sixteen-ounce chip placed squarely on their shoulders.

MSU kicked off Thursday by telling Valpo its uniforms are ugly and then winning 65-54. Maybe they didn't tell them that, but I was messing with the color on my TV all game.

Senior Derrick Nix had a monster game, compiling 23 points and 15 rebounds by overpowering everyone in the low post.

Izzo's guys are known for performing well tournament time, playing in the second weekend four of the last five years. They are also basically playing a home game in Auburn Hills, MI, about 1 1/2 hours from campus.

Harvard Crimson (14) vs. Arizona Wildcats (6), 6:10 p.m. Saturday

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (15) vs. San Diego St. Aztecs (7), 7:10 p.m. Sunday

A representative for the Harvard Lampoon had this to tweet:

"America, we are sorry for messing up your brackets and also your financial system and everything else."

No word from the FGCU Lampoon, probably because it doesn't exist.

Cinderellas, man.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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