The weekend began with people wondering aloud if four Big Ten teams could reach the Final Four. Now the question has become, “will any??”
The answer to that question rests solely on the shoulders of Trey Burke and the young cast of the Michigan Wolverines. They aren’t quite the Fab Five, but they are close. Burke, the national player of the year, is a sophomore, and three other freshman; MichMcGary (the breakout star of the tourney), Glenn Robinson III and Nick Stauskas, are relied on heavily. Meanwhile, their opponent, the Florida Gators, is a veteran laden team making their third straight Elite Eight appearance.
So will experience trump youth? Can the big Ten avoid the embarrassing shut-out in Atlanta? Let’s dig inside today’s matchup to find our third piece of a so-far surprising Final Four.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Florida Gators -3 (South Regional Final)
Michigan should be flying high and full of confidence following one of the most miraculous and thrilling comebacks in NCAA Tourney history. Trey Burke snapped out of his funk in a major way, tallying 23 points in the second half and overtime including THE shot of the tournament, a nearly forty footer with three seconds in regulation to tie the game and force overtime. And as amazing as Trey Burke has been, the Michigan player who has leapt off the screen has been freshman bigman Mitch McGary. The 6’10’’, 265 pound freshman has been an absolute beast inside. He riddled the excellent Kansas frontcourt for 23 points and 14 rebounds. The good news for Michigan? The Florida frontcourt is not as good as Kansas’s.
The bad news for Michigan is that Florida is a better overall defensive team. They don’t have the imposing shot blocker like Jeff Withey, but their guards are as good defensively as any team in the country. I think Billy Donovan may have stumbled upon some defensive gold when he swapped Casey Prather for the struggling Erik Murphy. If Murphy isn’t contributing offensively, then Prather is a no-brainer for his defense and energy.
The Achilles heel for Florida has been late game situations. It hasn’t mattered in this tournament as they have won every game by double digits, but they also haven’t played a single digit seed, and they certainly haven’t seen a team with the overall athleticism and NBA-level talent of Michigan. I expect this game to be tight, and if it remains tight, I give the edge to Michigan, whose late-game confidence will be absolutely soaring after the Kansas game.
Michigan has a little more talent. Florida has a little more experience. However, who do you trust more in close games, Trey Burke (So.) or Kenny Boynton (Sr.)?
Give me the Wolverines salvaging the Big Ten’s tourney and advancing to Atlanta to set up an unbelievably fascinating game against Syracuse.
Free Pick: Michigan Wolverines +3