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Michigan basketball vs. Florida: Scouting report, prediction

Tribune News Service • Mar 23, 2019 at 12:15 AM

Free Press sports writer Nick Baumgardner breaks down Michigan's NCAA tournament round of 32 matchup with Florida on Saturday:

Fast facts

Matchup: No. 2 Michigan (29-6) vs. No. 10 Florida (20-15).

Tipoff: 5:15 p.m. (ET) Saturday; Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

TV/radio: CBS, WWJ-AM (950).

Scouting report

Sizing up Michigan: The Wolverines got their swagger back (if they ever really lost it) Thursday by treating an over-matched Montana team like an over-matched Montana team. The Wolverines thrashed the Grizzlies defensively and never allowed Montana to even sniff an upset in a 19-point opening-round victory. Charles Matthews looked like the healthiest he has been since before injuring his ankle in late February against Michigan State and the offense had solid flow most of the game, despite a few early turnovers. More important, Michigan reminded everyone of how swarming its defense can be if you're not fully prepared for it or haven't seen it before. Playing this team on a one-day prep is incredibly difficult, as is scoring in general.

Sizing up Florida: Florida's the highest-rated double-digit seed in the tournament, per KenPom's efficiency numbers. On Thursday night, Nevada found that out the hard way. The Gators only had four Quadrant 1 wins this year, but they played in 16 of those games. They're battle-tested. Florida wants to play slow and rely on its defense, as the Gators scratched out most of their quality wins this season via old fashioned rock fights. Florida isn't a great 3-point shooting team (33.5 percent) and makes less than 50 percent of its 2's. However, the Gators allow opponents to shoot just 32 percent from deep and have a defensive turnover percentage (turnovers forced over 100 possessions) of 22.6, which is outstanding. Offensively? It can be a struggle. Jalen Hudson, Keyontae Johnson and KeVaughn Allen can get to the rim. But Florida's not going to put on an offensive show most nights. This team relies on a deliberate pace and grind-it-out defense.

Bottom line: Florida may look at what Montana did to get Michigan into some early turnover issues and push its already capable defense in that direction Saturday, as this game could be a low-scoring grinder. Michigan's staff remarked after the Montana win that Florida reminds them a bit of Maryland, a Big Ten foe Michigan toppled twice in the Big Ten. The Gators have athletes, they're physical and they contest everything defensively. Can they score enough, though?

Prediction

Florida, on paper, is a worse version of Michigan in that its defense out-paces its offense. Problem there for the Gators is that they entered the tournament No. 61 nationally in offensive efficiency and No. 15 in defense. Michigan was No. 18 and No. 2, respectively. Michigan's the better team and this is a much better matchup for the Wolverines than Nevada might have been. The Gators are much more capable than their 20-15 record might show. But I'm not sure if Florida can score enough points. First to 60 gets this game. Pick: Michigan 64, Florida 58.

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