Michigan basketball saw Juwan Howard return as the head coach on Saturday against Eastern Michigan, but a true test awaits the Wolverines on Tuesday as Florida awaits in the Jumpman Invitational.
Michigan squared off against North Carolina last season in the event in Charlotte. This time around, the Wolverines will play a Florida team also looking to build their non-conference resume. Michigan basketball has beaten St. John's and Iowa on the road. Yet, at 6-5, there is work to do on the resume and this is the final chance for both teams to get an impressive out of conference win.
In terms of the odds, Florida is a 3.5-point favorite according to DraftKings. The over/under is set for 158.5 and the money line is -166 for the Gators, as well as +140 for Michigan basketball.
Michigan basketball vs. Florida how to watch
Date: Dec. 19 Game Time: 7:00 PM EST Venue: Charlotte How to Watch: ESPN | Fubo TV
Keys for Michigan basketball vs. Florida
The Gators are ranked 39th in the Kenpom rankings. Michigan is ranked 45th. Florida boasts the No. 32 adjusted offense, while Michigan is No. 20. The outlier so far is the Wolverines' defense which ranks No. 126 in adjusted defense. That's the second-worst defense of any team in the 50. Only Iowa is worse.
So being solid on defense is a big key. More specifically, the Wolverines need to limit Florida in transition. The Gators score more than 20 points per game in transition. Iowa did too and if U-M can limit the Gators the way it did Iowa in transition, that will be a huge help.
Florida has multiple dudes taller than 6-foot-10 are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in all of college basketball. The 7-3 Gators are averaging 16.4 offensive rebounds. That's been an issue for Michigan baskeball this season, so that will be another area to watch.
Slowing down Florida point guard Walter Clayton is another key. The 6-foot-2 point guard is averaging 16.5 points per game and 3.6 assists. He also makes 2.2 3-pointers per game and is one of three Florida shooters to know along with Riley Kugel and Will Richard.
On the offensive end, Dug McDaniel and Olivier Nkamhoua will have to drive the ship for the Wolverines, along with their 3-point shooting. The Gators are good at defending the rim and opposing teams rank 312th in 2-point attempts. Florida's 3-point defense ranks 241st in percentage and Michigan has to take advantage of that.
Michigan basketball vs. Florida prediction
Both teams have struggled against tougher competition this season, but the Gators beat Florida State handily, which is the same thing the Wolverines did to St. John's and Iowa.
Florida's defense could be the difference but I'm wondering if Juwan Howard can make an impact there. I thought the defense played better in the past two games and EMU was held under a point-per-possession.
If Michigan wins this game, suddenly, the NCAA tournament seems much more possible. But I've been encouraged by the past two games and I'm going to go with the Wolverines. I believe it's possible they get a real boost from Juwan and for U-M, this feels like a must-win game. If the Wolverines play with a sense of urgency and defend, they will win.
Prediction: Michigan 77, Florida 71