The Michigan Wolverines advanced to the program’s fourth Elite Eight appearance since 2013 with a 76-58 victory over Florida State on Sunday evening. Sophomore wing Franz Wagner unsurprisingly played a major role in that.
He finished the day with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. It was far from one of his best offensive games in a Michigan uniform, but the stat line puts him in rare company among his Wolverine peers.
Wagner became just the sixth Michigan player since 1984 to log at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in an NCAA Tournament game. He is the first to do so since Mitch McGary pulled it off during the 2013 run to the national championship game. McGary’s performance (10 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists) came in Michigan’s Final Four win over Syracuse.
Wagner has grown into one of the best two-way players in college basketball and his burgeoning skill-set has him in the conversation to be a potential lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Head coach Juwan Howard continued to rave about his development in the minutes that followed Sunday’s Sweet 16 win.
“He has gotten better each year, and he’s only been here for two years,” Howard said after Sunday’s game. It’s been a joy to coach, and I know my staff will agree, a guy that has a high IQ, high ceiling, loves basketball, a grinder. Today the impact that he has on the game, just like his teammates, was extremely effective with having the ball in his hands and also being on the defensive end.”
Ball movement was critical for the Wolverines in helping defeat the size and athleticism that Florida State threw at them. Wagner praised the coaching staff’s gameplan and his team’s ability to stick to it throughout the contest.
“I like to give the coaching staff some credit,” Wagner said. “I think we made some good plays that really put us in good positions out there. I mean, like I said, we basically knew how they were going to play us all game with fronting the post and switching everything. So we kind of knew what to expect and did that in practice.
“Then I think we did a really good job, like I said, of not allowing them to speed us up and dribble against the switch itself. That’s how we got moving and got them to move and to adjust to us. And we attacked our close-outs. That’s when they pressure so much and can attack the paint. That’s how I got my assist today, and that’s when good things happen for us.”
Wagner was appreciative of the confidence that Howard and his staff place in him and his teammates. Michigan’s head coach said that is all part of the culture he has built.
“Well, why not give them confidence?” Howard asked. “That’s what we’re here for, to empower these young men who have put in a lot of hard work and effort every day in practice, games. If you break their confidence, then they will not be able to go out there and compete at a high level. The trust is earned, not only just from the players, but also coaches. We have to earn their trust.
“So with all the work that we put in practice, we see what our guys provide from a skill level, also being neck up, and then also the hard work they bring in with the energy and effort. So the trust and the belief are there on both sides. That’s a part of our culture, a keyword, trust.”
The confident Wolverines and the do-it-all Wagner will be back in action on Tuesday night against UCLA with a trip in the Final Four on the line. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:57 p.m. with the broadcast on TBS.