These two teams were expected to reach this stage in the NCAA tournament – Michigan held the number one spot in the nation earlier this season before some problems in winning tough road games appeared. Florida have one of the best defenses in the nation, but their inability to win close games makes you wonder of how just how good they really are.
For Florida, success at this stage of the season has become the norm under Billy Donovan, who had a few lean years following his two national titles. Now, after two consecutive Elite Eight losses, Donovan plans to make his return to the Final Four with a less talented bunch than what he had in 2006 and 2007, but with a defense that doesn’t always make it necessary for him to have that kind of talent.
Florida have allowed an average of 53.7 points in the tournament, and while Michigan present a very different challenge than what the Gators have seen so far from Minnesota, Florida Gulf Coast and Northwestern State, they believe that through the physicality of their D, with the likes of Patric Young, Casey Prather and Erik Murphy, the whole myth about them losing close games will be abolished.
On the other hand, an 0-6 record in games decided by single-digits is a fact. Stats can be twisted to mean different things, and Michigan hope that it means that even if they do fall behind, keeping it close mans Florida will kick the bucket in the closing minutes with their inability to score points during long stretches.
The Wolverines rarely run into that kind of trouble, and while people kept talking about Trey Burke being all alone in the fight, things have changed. Mitch McGary has risen to another level in the NCAA tournament, averaging 19.3 points and 12.3 rebounds, joining Burke who is scoring 15.7 points and adding 8 assists per game over the last three games, including the game-winning shot against the Kansas Jayhawks in the previous round.
Prediction – While defense proved to be the key in the first of the Elite Eight games in the previous day, Michigan’s offense will be too good for a team that looked great in the SEC, but simply doesn’t have the kind of finishers on offense to carry them through even a bad shooting day for the Wolverines.