Top-seeded Michigan’s NCAA Tournament run has included successfully navigating the carnage of the first two rounds.
That’s no small feat, considering we have the highest seed average in the 64/68-team bracket era entering this year’s Sweet 16. Plus, everyone else in the Big Ten Conference is already out.
Will the Wolverines be able to make their way past their toughest March Madness opponent yet in fourth-seeded Florida State? Here will be three keys to victory over the Seminoles if they do.
Preview: Oddsmakers still see Michigan as slight favorite
Michigan and Florida State are set to meet up in an East Region semifinal at 5 p.m. Sunday on CBS. The game is at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The Wolverines have been the established favorite all week. Most Michigan sportsbooks are currently listing U-M as a 2.5-point favorite.
When it comes to the point total, the over/under is ranging from 143-144 points.
Michigan still remains one of the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament as well, with odds in the +700 to +900 range. Florida State is a littler further back, in the +1500 to +2000 range.
1. Replacing Isaiah Livers’ production
Michigan had high hopes for a national title heading into March, but a stress fracture to Isaiah Livers put a damper on the Wolverines’ outlook.
Livers hasn’t been officially ruled out for the tournament, but is still expected to be out the next two weeks.
The senior forward averaged 13.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game during the season for the Wolverines, both of which ranked in the top three on the team.
In each of the first two tournament games, Michigan has had some players raise their game to help the Wolverines win.
Against Texas Southern in the first round, guard Mike Smith had 18 points and five assists, while forward Brandon Johns Jr. scored 11.
In Monday’s win over LSU, Eli Brooks scored 21 points and had seven assists, while guard Chaundee Brown came off the bench and scored 21 as well.
Johns averages just 4.5 points per game on the season. Brown averages only 7.9. Michigan will need this continued surprise production if they hope to keep pace with the likes of FSU, and potentially Alabama.
2. Michigan’s offense should target 75 points
Florida State has the potential to win a high-scoring game, as the Seminoles average 79.6 points per game. However, in each of FSU’s six losses this season, they have given up 75 points or more.
The 86-78 win over LSU showed a chaotic game can be part of Michigan’s NCAA Tournament run. But it will be tough for the Wolverines to continue to rely on role players to surpass their averages.
All the same, Michigan needs to be aggressive offensively. FSU ranks 179th nationally in scoring defense (70.1 ppg) and 197th in 3-point defense (33.9%).
The Wolverines boast stronger defensive statistics, allowing just 65.2 points per game while holding opponents to 39% shooting from the field.
While being aggressive, U-M still needs to be mindful of mistakes and keeping FSU from getting into transition. The Seminoles forced Colorado into 19 turnovers and cashed in for 17 transition points in their 71-53 victory in the second round.
Michigan ranks in the top 50 in fewest turnovers per game (11.2). It’s within the Wolverines’ capability to play up tempo without turning the ball over.
3. Wolverines must establish the paint
In Florida State’s two tournament wins, the Seminoles have been able to control the paint on both sides of the floor.
FSU scored 44 points in the paint in a 64-54 win over UNC-Greensboro. The Seminoles followed it up with 28 close-range points against Colorado.
The Seminoles attack with aggressive guards and forwards. Center Balsa Koprivica (7-foot-1) averages 9.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while playing under 20 minutes per contest.
Michigan star freshman Hunter Dickinson will be tested physically, but must establish his presence in the paint defensively. Also 7-1, Dickinson pulls down 7.5 rebounds per game and blocks 1.4 shots per contest.
Senior forward Austin Davis will need to log solid minutes as well. The 6-10 forward will be tested when he’s on the floor in place of Dickinson.