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It took a while, but Florida is finally getting a true task. Michigan comes into this game riding a high note after their improbable win over Kansas in what was the best game of the Sweet 16. It provided late-game heroics by Trey Burke and the first overtime game in the NCAA Tournament since 2011. It was basically everything the viewer could have hoped for.
As for the Gators, they silently put the choke hold on Florida Gulf Coast. After being down 24-14, Florida decided to show their strength and bullied the Eagles from there on. In a rather slow game that saw FGCU commit 20 turnovers, their Cinderella run came to a close as many expected it would. Florida presents the best team in the tournament according to the statistics with a Top 10 defense and offense. Michigan is a little top-heavy with a great offense, but a rather suspect defense. So far, their offense has won out.
This is not the same Wolverines team that lost to Penn State a month ago. Once a team that lacked a consistent big man on both ends of the court, they have turned over a new leaf with Mitch McGary in the starting lineup. None more evident than the past two games when McGary has totaled 46 points and 28 rebounds in 69 minutes of play. This is the same player that averaged 19 minutes, 7.3 points and 6.1 boards per game during the regular season. Talk about a difference maker. Jeff Withey had five blocks last game, but he couldn't do enough to stop McGary on the boards. When you combine what McGary has been able to do with the rest of this roster, it's pretty scary.
Trey Burke had the best shot of the tourney when he pulled up for a three that was deeper than NBA range to tie it with five seconds left against Kansas. He finished with 23 points after not scoring in the first half. Sure, they aren't a deep squad, but they don't have to be when all five of their starters are legitimate threats. Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas can all create shots for themselves as they all finished in double-digits against the Jayhawks. Kansas had the best defensive field percentage in the nation, but that didn't matter to them. They will now face a task just as difficult against the Gators.
Florida not only has a well-rounded squad, but a deep one, as well. They have a roster that can defend all positions no matter who you are. Whereas Withey was a height problem for McGary, Patric Young is going to be a strength problem. Young may not get a ton of baskets, but he's going to fight down low and make things as hard as possible for McGary. Off the bench, Will Yeguete can also provide some muscle.
The battle on the outside will be just as good as the one inside. Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin are just as big of playmakers as the Wolverines three guards. While none of those guys is quite the scorer Burke is, they can all play defense and can score the rock when needed. The interesting matchup will be between Erik Murphy and Robinson III. Murphy has the frame to post up Robinson, but also can hit from long range.
Florida still has not won a big game by less than 10 points all year which is worrisome because this game will likely come down to the wire with Burke in the game. This game should be back-and-forth with plenty of points, but who will shine in the end? The Gators don't have that type of player to take over when the game gets close. Can their defense live up to its ranking and stop McGary from imposing down low? Michigan may be underdogs, but they are rolling and could easily pull this game out if Burke can figure out this defense.
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