Things were a bit dicey early on for Michigan in its 64-49 win over Florida in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament, but it never really felt like they were in trouble. Water found its level in the second half and they found a way to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row and fifth time in the last seven seasons under John Beilein.
This team is not firing on all cylinders, but all that you can ask for is that they stay alive and learn and grow from the experiences. It was a relatively drama-free weekend in Des Moines, but between some steps forward from Jordan Poole and the return tournament-version Charles Matthews, it feels like they could be on the verge of busting out.
Here are some quick takeaways from the game:
- First and foremost, while not perfect on Saturday, it was a nice showing from Jordan Poole with some timely shots and good decision making. He really is Michigan’s best shot to really get hot offensively with his ability to hit from outside and we at least saw flashes of it. His arrow is on the rise, but we will see how he performs next week in Anaheim.
- Zavier Simpson had a few turnovers, but once again flirted with a triple double and finished with 9 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds. He is just so locked in with some of the passes he has been making down the stretch of this season and the hook shot is routine and now somewhat boring (not really) and expected.
- Charles Matthews did not go off, but he did finish with 9 points and he was getting some good looks at the basket. His athleticism is going to be crucial in this next pod of games.
- It was odd to see Florida, a team who does not shoot the three prolifically, go off in the first half. Sure, some of it may have been some March magic, but the Wolverines, one of the stingiest three-point defenses in America, was letting them get wide open looks. Here’s to hoping that does not become a trend and was but a blip on the radar in a hopeful long March run.
- Ignas Brazdeikis’ only two buckets of the game were early on in the first and second halves and he did not do much else and dealt with some foul trouble. It is what it is, but it still feels like there’s going to be a big NCAA Tournament moment for him at some point.
- Michigan is far from deep on the bench, but what they are getting from Isaiah Livers and, somewhat surprisingly, Eli Brooks, is a positive for them. They still struggle when Jon Teske is not on the floor, which might be a big concern, but luckily for them those stretches have not needed to be very long for them.
Quick thoughts on what’s ahead
The Wolverines will get the winner of No. 3 Texas Tech/No. 6 Buffalo, who will play on Sunday. Of those two teams, it feels like Buffalo may be the preferred matchup, but that’s a tough team that people have slept on because they play in the MAC and they can score a bit. Texas Tech is similar to Michigan in that they are an elite defense (both teams are 1-2 in that area on KenPom) and they have a terrific player on Jarrett Culver. I think you’d have to like Michigan’s chances in either game, especially with a week to prepare, but things get significantly tougher from here, as it should be. If they get past one of those two teams, a likely matchup with either Gonzaga or Florida State awaits in the Elite Eight.