Michigan vs. Florida: Who has the edge
The Detroit News’ James Hawkins breaks down Saturday’s Michigan-Florida NCAA Tournament second-round game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa (5:15 p.m.; CBS/WWJ 950).
The Gators have used eight starting lineups during the season but have stuck with the same one in the postseason with 6-foot-5 Andrew Nembhard running the show. Nembhard, who made the Southeastern Conference’s all-freshman team, has come through in the clutch with a last-second shot that beat LSU in the SEC tournament last week and a driving layup with 1:36 left that stemmed Nevada’s comeback in Thursday’s first-round game. He is joined by four-year starter KeVaughn Allen, who is Florida’s leading scorer at 11.9 points per game and one of the team’s top 3-point threats (60 made 3s). Allen shook off a rough four-game stretch to close the regular season and is averaging 12 points on 42.9 percent shooting over the last four games.
Zavier Simpson continues to do everything and control everything for Michigan. He overcame an uncharacteristic first half Thursday against Montana where he had four turnovers – the fifth time in 35 games he’s had that many – by committing none in the second half en route to dishing out 10 assists for the sixth time in nine games. Sophomore Jordan Poole bounced back from a rough shooting performance with a 10-point outing where took only four shots and hit a key 3-pointer early in the second half after Montana had pulled within single digits.
Seniors Kevarrius Hayes and Jalen Hudson combined to score 31 points in the win over Nevada and have both been on a tear for Florida. Over the past five games, Hayes is averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting 79.4 percent (27-for-34) from the field. Over the past 10 games, Hudson has averaged 15.3 points and scored 33 against LSU when he moved into the starting lineup earlier this month. Freshman Keyontae Johnson recorded 10 points and 10 rebounds against Nevada – his third double-double in the last four games – but shot 3-for-14 in one of this worst shooting performances of the season.
Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews looked like last season’s postseason version of himself by powering Michigan past Montana with 22 points (8-for-12 shooting) and 10 rebounds. More importantly, he played a team-high 36 minutes, his most since returning from a right ankle sprain and an encouraging sign he won’t be limited moving forward. Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis extended his double-digits scoring streak to 10 games and is averaging 16.1 points over that span, while big man Jon Teske has shot at least 50 percent from the floor and recorded 11 points and nine rebounds six times in the last eight games.
Freshman guard Noah Locke, a former Michigan target, is Florida’s top 3-point threat at 38.2 percent and started 26 games before moving to the bench. He’s had a rough stretch over the past month where he’s averaging five points in 23.7 minutes while shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from 3-point range. After losing junior forward Keith Stone to an ACL tear in January, the Gators have turned to sophomore Dontay Bassett (11.4 minutes) and Isaiah Stokes (7.1 minutes) to fill the void.
Barring foul trouble, Michigan is going to primarily rely on a seven-man rotation with sophomore forward Isaiah Livers and sophomore guard Eli Brooks. Livers has provided a needed scoring punch with 50 points over the past four games, while Brooks has shown more of a willingness to shoot the ball and has scored in each of the past five games after scoring just once in the previous 10 games before that. But their best asset is their ability to guard and play multiple positions, which gives Michigan coach John Beilein options and flexibility with his lineups.
Much like the Wolverines, the Gators rely on a stingy defense that ranks No. 14 in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. However, Florida struggled against top competition with a 4-12 mark in Quad 1 games and has an offense that ranks No. 268 nationally in field-goal percentage at 42.7 percent. That doesn’t exactly bode well for the Gators in a game where points may be hard to come by. Michigan 66, Florida 56