Upset-minded Gators take on the Wolverines in Des Moines for a spot in the Sweet 16
After their upset victory over the Nevada Wolf Pack in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the 10th-seeded Florida Gators will now face a bigger challenge as they take on the second-seeded Michigan Wolverines.
Florida defeated No. 7 seed Nevada 70-61 behind 16 points from Kevarrius Hayes and 15 from Jalen Hudson. The Gators held the Wolf Pack to just 34.5 percent shooting from the floor and they fared even worse from 3-point range (5-for-24).
Michigan saw a welcome sight in its 74-55 win over No. 15 Montana. Charles Matthews, who has been battling injuries, looked spry and fresh as he scored 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting and also brought down 10 rebounds.
West Region: No. 10 Florida Gators (20-15) vs. No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (29-6)
Time: 5:15 p.m ET (Saturday)
Where: Wells Fargo Arena (Des Moines, Iowa)
Keys for Florida
Although the Gators only had four Quadrant 1 wins this year, they proved against Nevada that his a battle-tested team. Florida loves to slow down faster offenses and rely on its defense to grind out victories. Sometimes, the Gators are successful in pulling out wins while other times, it can be a struggle just to score points.
If Florida can generate enough offense along with forcing turnovers, the Gators should have an opportunity to pull out the win against Michigan. Florida will need to be more effective from the 3-point line, especially against an offensive-oriented team like the Wolverines. The Gators were just 5-for-18 from beyond the arc in Thursday's win over Nevada.
Keys for Michigan
On Thursday against Montana, Michigan looked like the championship contender everyone expected when the season started. Not only did the Wolverines out-shoot the Grizzlies by a significant margin (49 percent vs. 33.3), but they controlled the boards (+9 rebound margin), and smothered them on defense until the game was well in hand. A similar effort on defense could go a long way against a Florida team that isn't that great offensively.
Michigan also will need to bring its A game from an offensive standpoint, as Charles Matthews along with Ignas Brazdeikis will need to lead the way. Brazdeikis, the Wolverines' top big man, scored 14 points and posted seven rebounds in the win over Montana.
Florida entered the NCAA Tournament ranked 61st in offensive efficiency and 15th on defense. The problem is Michigan is much better on offense (18th) and second overall in defensive efficiency. To put it simple terms, the Wolverines are a much better team than Nevada.
While the Gators are capable of pulling off a second straight upset, I'm just not sure they can score enough points to do so.
Prediction: Michigan 70, Florida 60
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.