Last Updated: 2019-03-22
Six years ago, the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines met the No. 10 Florida Gators with a spot in the Final Four on the line. Both teams had pulled off a few upsets to get to the final of the South Region with Florida coming in as a No. 3 seed and Michigan entering as a No. 4 seed. The Wolverines were four-point underdogs in that one, but Nik Stauskas drained six threes to lead Michigan to a 79-59 rout in order to reach their first Final Four in 20 years. Now, Florida is looking to pull off the upset with a spot in the Sweet Sixteen on the line.
This West Region Second Round match tilt between the #2 Michigan Wolverines and #7 Florida Gators will take place at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. It is scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 23, and it will be broadcast on CBS. The Wolverines are seven-point favorites according to the college basketball odds, and the total has been set at 121.
How They Got Here
Michigan has been one of the best teams in the country all season. The Wolverines knocked off Villanova and North Carolina by a combined 44 points in non-conference play, and they got off to a 17-0 start before they lost on the road to Wisconsin. They couldn’t beat in-state rival Michigan State in three tries, but they beat pretty much everyone else. Michigan didn’t have much trouble against No. 15 Montana on Thursday, beating the Grizzlies by 19 and covering the spread.
The Gators didn’t assure themselves of a place in March Madness until the SEC Tournament. Florida was just one game above .500 in early February, and the Gators lost three in a row to end the regular season with one of those losses coming at home to Georgia. An early conference tournament exit would have likely left them on the outside of the NCAA Tournament, but they beat Arkansas and LSU to make the semifinals. Florida proved it belonged after holding Nevada to just 34.5 percent shooting from the field in a slight upset on Thursday.
This is going to be a low-scoring defensive game. Florida plays at one of the ten slowest paces in the country, and Michigan isn’t much better according to Ken Pomeroy.
However, while Michigan has a pretty good offense, ranking 19th in offensive efficiency, Florida has one of the worst offenses of any team still left in the tournament. The Gators just don’t shoot the ball well. They are hitting a little less than 50 percent of their two-pointers and only a third of their threes, and even in a win over Nevada they hit just 45.3 percent from the floor.
The Wolverines are very pragmatic on offense. They use a lot of clock, and they typically get off good shots. Michigan doesn’t turn the ball over either. They are third in the country in turnover percentage on offense.
Rebounding will be key in this one too. Florida allowed Nevada to grab 19 offensive rebounds on Thursday, and that’s been a problem all season. Kevarrius Hayes and Keyontae Johnson are the two primary options and both have had issues staying out of foul trouble. The Wolverines aren’t particularly great at grabbing offensive rebounds as a whole, but Jon Teske grabs a decent number when he’s on the court.
Johnson is the closest thing to a go-to scorer for Florida, and the Gators have a solid three-point specialist in Noah Locke. However, Kevaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson have both been underwhelming from beyond the arc.
Michigan has the good fortune of having two go-to guys. Senior Charles Matthews can get buckets and grab rebounds, but freshman Ignas Brazdeikis has given them a new dynamic. Brazdeikis is hitting almost 50 percent of his twos and 41 percent of his threes and he can take a game over.
Pick: Michigan -7
The Wolverines are just too good. Florida will keep it close for a while with their defense, but Brazdeikis and Matthews will be too much. Look for Michigan to pull away and win by double digits.
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