Preview: Gators face tough task in 2-seed Michigan

Mar 23, 2019 | 0 comments


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After pulling off the upset over the Nevada Wolf Pack, the No. 7 seed in the West, the No. 10 Florida Gators (20-15) will look to continue their run in the postseason. However, it won’t be easy. The Gators are set the face the No. 2 seed Michigan Wolverines with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

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The Wolverines advanced to the second round in dominate fashion, after blowing out No. 15 seed Montana, 74-55. Tip-off between the Gators and Wolverines is set for 5:15 EST on Saturday.


This will mark the third time the two programs will meet in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan has won both of the previous contests, with the most recent being in the 2013 Elite Eight.

Tale of The Tape:
 

No. 2 Michigan Wolverines

  • Record: 29-6
  • Head Coach: John Beilein
  • Leading Scorer: Ignas Brazdeikis, 15.1 PPG
  • AP Ranking: 80
  • KenPom Ranking: 5
  • NET Ranking: 9

Projected Starters:
 

PlayerPosHt.Wt.ClassAvg
Jon TeskeC7-1260Jr.9.7 PPG, 7 RPG
Ignas BrazdeikisF6-7215Fr.15.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG
Charles MatthewsG6-6205Sr.12.3 PPG, 5 RPG
Jordan PooleG6-5195So.12.7 PPG, 2.2 APG
Zavier SimpsonPG6-0190Jr.9.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.7 APG

After a run all the way to the National Championship game last year, the Wolverines came out strong to start 2018. They opened the season 17-0 and were ranked as high as second in the AP poll. The Wolverines held down that second spot in the rankings for four straight weeks earlier in the season.

In a strong Big 10, the Wolverines finished the year 15-5 in conference play. Of Michigan’s six losses, three of them belong to the Michigan State Spartans, one of them recently being in the Big 10 tournament title game.

Some argued that the Wolverines weren’t playing their best ball coming into the tournament, but that certainly didn’t look the case in their opener. Montana was no match for the Wolverines, and were never really in the game. That shouldn’t come as a surprise since it was 2-seed against a 15-seed, but Michigan had its questions.

The Wolverines were helped by the performance of Charles Matthews. The senior guard been struggling mightily since returning from injury, but turned in a double-double, with 22 points and 10 boards.

The Wolverines also got strong contributions from those around Matthews. Four of Michigan’s starters reached the double-digit mark. And lone starter who didn’t reach that mark (Zavier Simpson), was still plenty effective offensively with 10 assists.

Strengths:

The Wolverines are also a team that pride themselves on the defensive side of the ball and they get the job done. There’s not many that defend better than this Michigan squad. In fact, there’s just one team that does. The Wolverines are allowing just 58.3 points per game, which is good enough for second in the country.

They are a very athletic team and it shows in their defense. They possess great length and defend the perimeter well. And it doesn’t hurt to have a 7-footer anchoring the paint defensively, which the Wolverines have in Jon Teske.

Weaknesses:

Offensively, the Wolverines can rely on just one man at times. If the Gators can keep them out of their offensive flow, it’s only too their benefit. Both offenses in this game have tendencies to go cold. It will likely come down to who hits more shots.

Player to Watch:

  • Zavier Simpson, PG

This time of year, guard play is so critical to a team’s success. The Wolverines have a good one controlling their show in Zavier Simpson. He doesn’t take over games with his scoring, but he can if you let him. Simpson is a great distributor of the basketball and always finds the open guy while rarely making mistakes. If the game comes down to the line, look for the Wolverines to rely on Simpson making the right plays.

Michigan Will Win If:

Simply, if Michigan plays within themselves, they could get their job done. They have the more talented roster and have individuals that can control the game. If they have any sort of success against the Gators defense, signs point to them earning the victory. And on paper, there’s no sign an inconsistent Gators offense can break Michigan’s D.

No. 10 Florida Gators

  • Record: 20-15
  • Head Coach: Mike White
  • Leading Scorer: KeVaughn Allen, 12.0 PPG
  • AP Ranking: UR
  • KenPom Ranking: 25
  • NET Ranking: 31

Projected Starters:
 

PlayerPosHt.Wt.ClassAvg
Kevarrius HayesF6-9227Sr.8.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG
Keyontae JohnsonF6-5225Fr.8.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG
Jalen HudsonG6-6195R-Sr.9.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG
KeVaughn AllenG6-2193Sr.12.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG
Andrew NembhardG6-5191Fr.8.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 5.3 APG

Florida almost found itself on the wrong side of an 18-point comeback as Nevada was storming back into the game in the first round. However, the Gators were able to hold on to survive and advance to earn a date against the Wolverines.

As the Gators freshmen have earned the spotlight heading into the tournament, it was two seniors who stepped up to get the first-round victory. Kevarrius Hayes scored 16 for the Gators on a 5-of-6 shooting performance from the field. He also had some clutch free throws down the stretch which helped Florida fend off Nevada.

Jalen Hudson also added 15 points and made three three-pointers. He was aggressive throughout the game on both sides of the ball. Hudson was diving for loose balls and it looked evident he did not want his collegiate career to end Thursday night.

The Gators and the Wolverines turn out to be pretty similar. Both are gritty defensive teams that can slow down opposing attacks. But on the contrary, both offenses are known to run into scoring droughts.

Strengths:

As previously noted and evident throughout the season, the Gators rely on their defense. They got it done was again in beating Nevada and slowing down their prolific attack. A strength within the defense is the number of schemes Florida can run effectively.

Head coach Mike White said they’ve been practicing three to four different zone looks in practice leading up to the tournament. It was evident in their first-round match-up, when White switched the Gators into a 1-3-1 zone while the Wolf Pack were making a run.

Weaknesses:

Michigan’s big-men could be a problem for the Gators. Already limited in size as it is, the Gators don’t have much of a front court rotation. Florida’s big-men found themselves in serious foul trouble and Hayes fouled out. That can’t be the case against the Wolverines, as they need all hands-on deck to limit their size.

Player to Watch:

  • Kevarrius Hayes, F

It’s been noted that he’s been playing his best as of late, as Hayes is getting it done on both ends of the floor and leaving it all on the court. He will need to do it again it against a Michigan team with size. They have a true center in Teske that Hayes will match-up with down low. It will also be a big impact if Hayes can block some shots and lock down the paint defensively.

Florida Will Win If:

The Gators ability to control the tempo and flow of the game in the first round was a big reason they were able to advance. Since both team’s run at almost the same tempo, it won’t be easy to control. But if the Gators can control the flow of the game the way they want to, they have to like their chances.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt if the Gators could catch fire from beyond the arc. They attempt threes at a high rate and against a strong Michigan defense, they might force some. But if they can get hot and see some start to fall, they could be dancing on to the Sweet 16.

Additional Info

  • When: Saturday, 5:15 p.m. (EST)
  • Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Broadcast: CBS
  • Radio: Gators IMG Sports Network
  • Spread: +6.5
  • Total: 123

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