Michigan Basketball: NCAA Tournament — Elite Eight — Michigan vs. Florida — Wrap-up — Final Four Bound
Nasty, Furry Critter Bites Back.
Taking on the champions of the Big 12 and the SEC back-to-back, and winning both games is a tough task: not impossible, but upwardly difficult. Both the Jayhawks and Gators were at times ranked first nationally and each only went through only one rough spell all season. The smart money was Florida playing Kansas to send one giant to the Final Four. Both teams frequent the Sweet 16 and have won recent national titles.Michigan overcame another strong defenses as the Wolverines advance to the Atlanta Final Four by beating the Florida chompers 79-59.
The questions before the game centered on Michigan’s ability to play hard for 40 minutes after only one day’s rest, the cut back of lay-up central inside, and also could Michigan cut down Florida’s guard duo production to a manageable amount?
Michigan’s cause was greatly aided by a wonderful 13-0 run in which the Michigan offense moved the ball for quick scores and Florida did not get out of the gate. The lead swelled to 24 points and Coach Beilein started to play Albrecht, Morgan, LeVert, and Horford to give some rest to the starters for the envisioned second half furry. Only a small part of the lead evaporated.
A big part of the very early success was the continued effective and hard play of Mitch McGary. Florida did not cover him sufficiently and he had his way on the boards against the two inside Florida players.Then Stone Cold Nik Stauskas turned hot. Ignored in the corner by Florida, due to trying to cut off Burke from the lane and Stuaskas’ recent shooting problems, Nik hit the first shot and the second, and the third. Let a streak shooter get warm, and give him room, there is usually a big penalty to pay.
Michigan had some lapses later in the first half, but Florida mistakes and continued hard play by Michigan minimized the damage. Florida made a nice run that was quelled by a foul on Stauskas with less than a second left. The result was Michigan rolling the lead back to a hefty 17 points.
The second half started off with Michigan turnovers on sloppy passes and a semi-serious Florida run. The lead shrank as Michigan allowed Florida several consecutive layups. Hardaway continued to fire and miss and the increasing frustration showed. But he kept firing.With Burke ailing, little Spike Albrecht entered the game and made a big impact in a short period of time. Spike was like a knife going into an already serious wound. He made a couple of steals, handled the ball well, and eventually hit a three pointer that may have been the capstone. The old gym rat in Spike showed when he slipped in on an out of bounds pass-in for a steal and made a dipsy-doodle layup off his hip.
Horford and Morgan gave some valuable minutes late to rest McGary enough so he could remain functional and out of foul trouble.
In the second half, no particular Wolverine dominated offensively, but all managed some contributions.
It is significant that Florida was held to 59 points, a figure that pretty much guaranteed a loss. The perimeter defense in this game for Michigan was sound. The inside defense was hard to gauge as it looked like Michigan was employing the no foul strategy. Even so, Florida ended up in the double bonus as the ball kept getting inside and Michigan had to use a few fouls to prevent breakaway baskets.
The first half saw Florida unsuccessfully take advantage of Michigan on the inside and the guard play was snuffed by good perimeter defense. Michigan’s hands were again active on the perimeter and a couple of deflections led to transition baskets.
Michigan did not allow damaging offensive rebounds and did a nice job overall rebounding against Florida. All three inside guys did nice work sealing off on foul shot misses and short offensive misses.Many times the second game in a tournament weekend comes down more to players than coaches, with the short flip time of one day. Clearly, the Michigan players were very well prepared to attack the Gator man-to-man defense. The attack was so successful that Florida had to retreat into the zone. Michigan has some success against the zone, but the move by Coach Donovan proved to be a good one and at least kept Florida in the game.
Coach Donovan always produces sound teams with good defensive technique. But Michigan’s opportunities on steals or transition provided just enough cushion to keep the Gators from chomping at the Wolverine posterior in the rear view mirror.
Of no note to some, but of note to the author, is again how Coach Beilein called time out in the middle of play to get bench guys into the game.The back-to-back wins by Michigan must be the best tandem since perhaps the national championship run with Glen Rice. The odds of Michigan getting by both giants were not great, and any hope was floating in the wind until the late Michigan run in the Kansas game.
Michigan averaged over eighty points against two strong defensive teams.
Critics may point to the warts of Kansas and Florida, but every team in this tournament has some warts, and every team can be beat with no questions asked. There is no Kentucky with five NBA players waiting to get drafted. Match-ups are important, and on the surface, Michigan was a little slight regarding the match-ups against Kansas and Florida.
But as always point guard play is critical to advance past the first weekend. And Michigan has enjoyed magnificent point guard play. The game control, passing, and maneuvering of the ball by Burke have far surpassed his just average shooting statistics. It is obvious he is the team leader as the elderly sophomore.This is a big day in Michigan basketball history, one of the biggest ever. This somewhat improbable entry into the Final Four was due not only to offensive execution but also a big dose of confidence. This confidence was not present just three weeks ago. The coaching staff has done a great job of getting the troops ready, and the troops have responded with high-end offensive play and some increased toughness.
Michigan still has its trouble inside on defense, but at least the guys are putting a body on the post up players and forcing a few misses, enough to help the cause. Butter soft may be gone but Michigan is still not iron hard, but the melting point has been tested and elevated in the last two weeks as Michigan has survived and looks to be improving.
Next up the vaunted Syracuse zone and something completely different than Michigan is used to, both in style and pace. In some regards this game will be Beauty and the Beast.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
Go Blue — Wear Maize!