NCAA Tournament: Michigan vs. Florida Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who:No. 4 Michigan (29-7, 12-6 B1G) vs. No. 3 Florida (29-7, 14-4 SEC) Florida-Logo[1]
Where: Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, TX)
When: 2:20 p.m., Sunday, March 31st, 2013
Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 102.9 FM
MoreElite Eight Coverage, Sweet Sixteen Coverage

After 36 games scattered with highs and lows, Michigan is just 40 minutes away from a Final Four. A trip to Atlanta has been near the top of the Wolverines’ list of goals since April when Trey Burke announced he was returning to school. Now Michigan is one of the last eight teams standing and has the opportunity to punch its ticket.

Once again the Wolverines, the youngest team in the NCAA tournament will have a decided disadvantage in the experience column. Florida starts three seniors and two juniors all of whom have played at least 12 games in the NCAA tournament. The Gators have come painfully close to the Final Four in each of the last two seasons, losing Elite Eight games to Butler and Louisville by a combined seven points.

Nik Stauskas insists that Michigan isn’t young anymore.

“At this point in the season we really don’t consider ourself freshman,” Stauskas remarked on the podium Saturday afternoon. “We’re 35 games into the season, so we’ve seen just about everything through the course of the Big Ten season. We’ve been going up against good teams.”

The 6-foot-6 guard has a point. Michigan didn’t look young when it took every punch that Kansas could deliver and bounced back for a heroic comeback victory. The Wolverines will almost assuredly need a more consistent effort on Sunday to play on but at this point it’s clear that they’ve grown up.

Tempo Free Profile

Offensively, Florida is decidedly perimeter oriented. The Gators attempted 41% of their field goals from three point range in SEC play and led the league in all shooting metrics: 55% on twos, 39% on threes for a 56.7 effective field goal percentage. The Gators turned the ball over on just 17.1% of their SEC possessions, 2nd best in the conference, and follow the stereotypes of a perimeter-oriented team. What Florida doesn’t do well: crash the offensive glass or get to the free throw line. The Gators rebounded 30% of their misses in league play (10th SEC) and attempted just 24 free throws per 100 field goal attempts (14th SEC).

Florida’s offense is remarkably similar from a four factors perspective to Michigan’s; the Gators just play a little slower and shoot a few more threes.

In-conference offensive statistics

Stat (rank) PPP Tempo eFG% TO% Off. Reb FTA/FGA 3PA/FGA
Michigan 1.12 (2) 63.3 (7) 53.1% (1) 14.1% (1) 30.7% (7) 29.2% (11) 33.0% (4)
Florida 1.14 (1) 62.6 (10) 56.7% (1) 17.1% (2) 30.0% (10) 23.7% (14) 40.7% (2)

The similarities don’t stop with the four factors, Florida is one of the few transition offenses in the country more efficient than Michigan. According to data from Synergy Sports, Sunday’s game will feature two of the five most efficient high major transition offenses.

# Team % Time PPP eFG%
1 Alabama 13.8% 1.285 66.7%
2 Duke 10.7% 1.283 68.9%
3 Florida 13.6% 1.279 69.4%
4 Minnesota 14.0% 1.216 66.7%
5 Michigan 16.9% 1.208 65.4%

There are still some differences between both teams. Florida has more spot-up jumpers and significantly more post-up opportunities baked into its offense while Michigan gets out in transition more often and runs more ball screens.

While both offenses have similarities, Florida’s defense has been dominant at times – something nobody would say about Michigan. Florida’s defense is ranked second nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and the Gators rank 55th or better in all four factors. Florida’s field goal defense jumps off the chart: 43% effective (5th), 42% 2-point and 30.3% 3-point (28th) field goal percentages allowed. The Gator interior defense isn’t Kansas, but it’s the next best eFG% in the field of 68. Florida forces turnovers on nearly 23% of its opponents possessions and the Gators are just 9-6 when their opponents give the ball away on less than 21% of their possessions; 20-1 otherwise.

Individual Scouting

Florida’s three starting guards – Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin – have attempted 51% of their field goals from three point range this season. Rosario is the best perimeter shooter of the bunch, 38% for the year and 10-of-19 in the NCAA tournament. Florida’s guards range from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-3 and between 176 to 190 pounds. They are quick but not big and Michigan should have a size advantage at the two and three spots.

Wilbekin is considered the Gators’ defensive stopper and is likely to draw the Burke matchup while Boynton is the best ball screen player on the Florida roster.


Erik Murphy is a classic stretch-four and easily the Gators’ most efficient offensive player. Murphy shoots 63% on twos and 46% on threes with slightly more than half of his attempts originating from long range. One third of Murphy’s offensive possessions are spot ups, 19% are post ups and 12% are rolling to the basket on the pick and roll. The 6-foot-10 forward ranks in the 85th percentile are better in finishing all three play types and should be a load for Glenn Robinson III to handle at the four.

Patric Young anchors the low post at 6-foot-9, 249 pounds. Young makes 60% of his field goal attempts, all twos, but is just a 50% free throw shooter. He’s a good defensive rebounder and a great offensive rebounder and shot blocker. An impressive 48% of Young’s offensive possessions are traditional post ups and he scores .902 points per post up, good for the 74th percentile nationally. He prefers to be on the left block and turn his left shoulder; his favorite move on the low block is the left shoulder hook.

Billy Donovan generally sticks with an eight man rotation, relying on Michael Frazier II, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather to provide his bench minutes.  Yeguete, at 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, provides the majority of Florida’s backup minutes in the low post. He’s an impact rebounder on both ends of the floor and comfortable finishing at the rim. Yeguete is also a key for the Gators defense, John Gasaway points out his impact:

In calendar 2013, no UF opponent has scored more than a point per trip when Will Yeguete has been healthy and available all game. Call that Yeguete’s Law, and it is in force until proven otherwise.

Prather is a name familiar to Michigan fans as John Beilein pursued him heavily as a prep player. Prather is rarely involved offensively for the Gators but is a capable finisher cutting to the basket, in transition and on the offensive glass. Frazier is a freshman guard that has attempted 80 percent of his field goals from 3-point range and converts at a 46% clip.

Thoughts and keys

Michigan’s offense is scoring an impressive 1.17 points per trip in NCAA tournament play and its offense is certainly hitting on all cylinders considering two thirds of that production came against Kansas’ formidable defense and VCU’s vaunted Havoc full court press. Florida’s defense is impressive in its own right but the Wolverines should thrive against a defense that hopes to them over – as we saw last week at the Palace. The key will continue to be whether Michigan can slow Florida’s offense.

Stretch four matchup

The matchup at the four position is most worrisome for Michigan. Murphy is Florida’s most efficient player and also in the most difficult spot for Michigan to counter. Robinson should be able to stick with Murphy on the perimeter but his challenge will be defending Murphy on the block, where Murphy is capable and Robinson has struggled against bigger players. Robinson has had a good tournament but will need one more big game – on both ends – to help Michigan to a Final Four.

Stick with the Burke-McGary high ball screen

Trey Burke and Mitch McGary have attempted 84 of Michigan’s 186 (45%) shots in the NCAA tournament and there’s no reason to change that. The ball screen will be critical, as it is in every game Michigan plays, and open up the rest of the offense. The Gators utilized a hard hedge against Brett Comer and Florida Gulf Coast on Friday.

“They did a great job on not making me use the ball screen. They made me turn it down,” Comer said after FGCU’s loss. “They hedged it really hard. I didn’t make the right play out of it, like I should have, and it affected us.”

Michigan has utilized the ball screen so often this season that the Wolverines have seen almost every variation of ball screen defense and the key will be how Michigan adjusts to Florida’s approach throughout the game.

Bottom Line

Ken Pomeroy’s computers love Florida, ranking the Gators first overall, so it’s no surprise that Pomeroy’s model projects a 67-62 Florida win on a neutral court, giving the Gators a 71% shot at advancing to the Final Four. By the end of March the numbers, probabilities and even logic only mean so much; this looks to be another game that will be decided by just one or two possessions down the stretch.

  • Steve2081

    In other news a number of Michigan targets are taking part in an Adidas Nations camp in Chicago this weekend.

    2015 SG Jalen Coleman
    2015 PG Sedrick Barefield
    2015 PG Hyron Edwards
    2015 C Stephen Zimmerman
    2016 SG Eron Gordon
    2016 F Justin Jackson

  • jemblue

    One stat that gives me confidence: Florida is 0-6 this year in single-digit games. They haven’t won a close game all season, which is amazing.

    • Of course that also means they have a lot of blow out wins.

      • jemblue

        But if it goes as you’ve predicted – a game decided by one or two possessions – you have to feel pretty good about our chances.

  • Adam Valentine

    Florida has had basically the path of least resistance and struggled at times. That, coupled with the SEC being bad, it’s hard to get a real grip on KenPom. This game will be another nail biter.

    • Mattski

      Does Kenpom adjust at all for experience on the floor? I think that it’s true that the team has played with veteran aplomb so far–and I continue to believe that point guard leadership might be the single biggest plus for any good team in the tourney. But I also think that experience on the court tends to have some value, and I’m curious how the statisticians might account for it.

      • gpsimms

        I’m pretty sure his predictions are only based on a teams’ adjusted pythagorean win%, which only accounts for points scored/allowed and adjusted for competition.

        • Mattski


      • mikey_mac

        Things that have no demonstrable effect on game outcomes are not part of his formulas.

        • Mattski

          Thanks. People like Coach Beilein wouldn’t talk about experience if it didn’t matter. What I was wondering was whether you can measure its effect, or whether Kenpom tries.

          • KenPom is based on results … You could try to compute correlation between experience and KenPom pythag rating if you wanted to measure its effect.

    • gpsimms

      The valentine dude seems dumb. I wouldn’t listen to him.

      ha, what’s up, buddy?

      • Adam Valentine

        HA! I will be texting you during the game my man.

  • Mattski

    With a strong inside game, we are now a different team than we were for most of the year. If McGary continues to play well, I don’t see why we don’t give Florida a very good game, indeed. ANy team can come out flat in these games, but I’m hoping we had our flat 9/10 of a game against Kansas yesterday.

  • rlcBlue

    Common opponents:

    Florida Michigan
    Wisconsin 74-56 H 62-65 R
    59-68 N
    Minnesota 78-64 N 83-75 R
    Arkansas 69-80 R 80-67 H
    71-54 H
    Kansas State 61-67 N* 71-57 N

    KenPom lists the Florida-K-State game in Kansas City as being “Semi-Away” for the Gators.

    I guess I could be encouraged that we have the only road win vs. our common opponents, or hope that K-State is a more accurate measuring stick of team quality than Wisconsin. Mostly seems inconclusive.

    Murphy is a worrisome matchup. I don’t know what our strategy will be.

    I love John Gasaway, but the In calendar 2013 qualifier means that the domain of “Yeguete’s Law” is the SEC + Yale, Northwestern State, Florida Gulf Coast, and Minnesota. Not exactly murderer’s row there…

    • I know the SEC isn’t great but conference play is usually a decent barometer at this point.

      • rlcBlue

        Hey, I’m trying to be optimistic here!

        That is, I’m hoping that KenPom’s correction for strength of schedule underestimates how difficult the B1G is and overestimates the SEC. It’s getting a bit harder to make the “B1G Roolz!!!!1!1!!!!” argument, unfortunately. If we don’t advance tomorrow, the “Overrated B1G” articles will pile up like lake effect snow.

      • David DeMember

        Florida played NOBODY this year… they lost to Kentucky without Nerlens Noel. When all the talk is about “signature wins” I just don’t understand how Florida got a pass from EVERYONE the past month.

  • mikey_mac

    This is another case where I’m hoping Morgan gets some real minutes, say 10+, with most spent at the 4. I’d much rather give up some open 3-pt looks to Murphy to start than get dominated in the post like GR3 has had happen to him over and over lately. I don’t think McGary is yet capable of double-teaming smartly in the post.

  • Northern Blue

    Timmy struggling… needs to find other ways to get himself going. Go to the hoop hard and defend and rebound.