In just his second coaching season, Juwan Howard leads the Michigan Wolverines into the Sweet Sixteen against Florida State. Florida State is coming off two convincing wins in the NCAA Tournament. While Michigan has been impressive without one of their lead players Isaiah Livers. Keys to this Sweet Sixteen clash includes turnovers and role players contributing more on the offensive end.
The loss of Livers is no shrug-of-the-shoulder for Michigan averaging 13.1 points per game. With role players attempting to fill Liver’s shoes, Michigan has an average margin of victory of +12. Players like Mike Smith, Eli Brooks and Chaundee Brown have all increased their offensive output in the NCAA Tournament.
Against Texas Southern, the Columbia transfer Smith poured in 18 points shooting 50%. Brown had a season-high of 21 points shooting 6/9 and 3/6 from three against LSU. Further, Brooks has elevated his game the most among Michigan players. This season, Brooks averages 9.7 points while shooting 43.2%. In the NCAA Tournament, Brooks is averaging 16 points. Brooks erupted with 21 points shooting 7/11 and 5/9 from three versus LSU. Without Livers, Michigan has a hole that needs filled on the offensive end. They have talented players like Smith, Brown and Brooks that can increase their production. To go deeper in the NCAA Tournament, Smith, Brown and Brooks need to keep contributing in a big way.
In March Madness, allowing offensive rebounds has been a problem for Michigan. To clarify, Michigan is allowing an average of 11 offensive boards in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, Florida State corrals 10 offensive rebounds per game. Also, the Seminoles are shooting 52.1% in the March Madness. Therefore, Michigan needs to rebound better on the defensive end. That way Florida State’s second chance scoring can be wiped away or limited. This must be done against an incoming Florida State team that is hot at the right time.
Florida State’s Keys
Florida State is seeing several different players produce in March Madness. Firstly, RaiQuan Gray typically averages 12 points while shooting 51.5%. Against UNC Greensboro, Gray had 17 points shooting 8/13. Anthony Polite has been huge for the Seminoles in the NCAA Tournament. Polite is averaging 17 points in the first rounds. Also, Polite had a career-high of 22 points against Colorado in the Round of 32. This is a big uptick in production when considering Polite averages 10.2 points. Once again, someone on Florida State’s deep team will need a huge outing against Michigan. Players like M.J. Walker, Scottie Barnes or Balsa Koprivica are capable of 15+ points, which Florida State will need to advance to the Elite Eight.
Perhaps Florida State’s biggest advantage against Michigan will be their length. Florida State boasts daunting length that can impact the opposition. The Seminoles starting lineup consists of players standing at 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6, 6-foot-8 and 7-foot-1. In addition, Florida State’s talented sixth man is the 6-foot-9 Scottie Barnes which typically closes games. The Seminoles are ranked 11th swatting 5.1 blocks per game, their length fuels their defense. Michigan’s star players have not seen length or size like Florida State has. If Florida State challenges each and every shot, their length could make Michigan uncomfortable.
Florida State must take care of the ball against Michigan. In the past four games, Florida State is turning the ball over 18.3 times per game. On the contrary, Michigan only averages 11.2 turnovers per contest. In turn, Michigan will get more shot attempts than Florida State. If Florida State continues this sloppy play, they will surely lose.
Players to Watch
Michigan’s star players, Dickinson and Wagner, lead the offense scoring 14.2 and 12.8 points per game. How they react to Florida State’s length will be huge. The 7-foot-1 Dickinson has not frequently seen a lengthy 7-foot-1 center like Koprivica. Also, Florida State will throw constant length and height at Wagner. Typically Wagner has been taller than his defender in the Big Ten. Dickinson and Wagner are both extremely talented, so they should be fine. However, Florida State’s length has caused fits for many.
For Florida State, the gifted freshman Barnes might be the one to watch. Barnes has shot 74.2% in his last five games. Interestingly, Barnes only scored 6 and 4 points in the first two rounds. Barnes put up 16.3 points in his three games before the NCAA Tournament. He has been efficient in every game recently, but he should put up more shots this game. Barnes usually comes in as a point forward since he handles the ball so well. This could lead to the 6-foot-9 Barnes being defended by guards that are 2-4 inches shorter. Barnes is an NBA prospect projected in the top ten of the upcoming NBA Draft. This will be a huge stage for Barnes to showcase his talent, and a monster game could fuel his team to victory.
On paper, this looks like the best or second best matchup in the Sweet Sixteen. This should be an awesome game that comes down to the last few minutes. As of 3/25, Michigan is favored by 2.5 points. However, Florida State’s length could be a problem. Also, Florida State has been hot as of recent, and Barnes seems due for a huge performance. Keeping Florida State off the offensive glass will be a huge challenge as well. Michigan versus Florida State tips Sunday at 5 p.m. on CBS.
Prediction: 79-77 Florida State
All stats courtesy of ESPN and Team Rankings.