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Michigan Wolverines vs. Florida Gators Preview: You again

Yet another chance for a quality non-conference win.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Michigan vs Florida Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines have had their chances this season, but games against Memphis, Texas Tech, and Oregon all ended the wrong way. Now the Wolverines get another shot against a team in this 30s in Kenpom, facing the Florida Gators in the second annual Jumpman Invitational.

Michigan has seen a ton of the Gators over the past decade across the two big sports, including the 2012-13 Elite Eight, 2015-16 Citrus Bowl, 2017 football opener in Jerry World, 2018 Peach Bowl, and 2018-19 NCAA Second Round. The teams meet again in Charlotte on Tuesday, with the Wolverines hoping to fare better than they did in last season’s loss to North Carolina in this event.

This is the penultimate non-conference game for the Wolverines, with a visit from surprisingly decent McNeese State coming after Christmas. With the Big Ten struggling across the board, it would be nice to finally log a quality win from this string of Power Six games and head into the new year with some momentum.

Florida enters this contest at 7-3 with losses to Virginia, Baylor, and Wake Forest. Just two wins came against top-100 opponents, Pittsburgh and Florida State, but that is not entirely dissimilar to the Wolverines’ resume at this time. With both the recent history between these schools and their current quality, this should be a good one.

Michigan Wolverines (6-5) vs. Florida Gators (7-3)

Date & Time: Tuesday, Dec. 19, 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
TV/Streaming: ESPN

The Gators sit 32nd in Kenpom offensive efficiency and 54th in defensive efficiency, good enough for top-40 ranking nationally. This profile is very close to that of Oregon, and do not be surprised if this is yet another Michigan game that goes down to the wire. While this is a decent opponent, the Wolverines can absolutely get a big neutral-site win on Tuesday.

On defense, Florida is great inside the arc and not so great outside it, meaning threes will need to be part of the Michigan gameplan. On the other end, the Gators are not really that efficient shooting the ball — sitting around 150th in effective field goal rate — but draw a lot of free throws and snag a ton of offensive rebounds, which does sound like a potential issue for the Wolverines.

Cautious optimism

It has been far from elite, but the Michigan defense has shown some improvement the last three games, with Indiana, Iowa, and Eastern Michigan all scoring under 1.10 PPP after surrendering well over that mark in four of the previous five contests. This Florida offense will be a test with its size and rebounding, but the Wolverines can win if it forces some bad jump shots.

At the end of the day, this team will go as far as its best players take it. Dug McDaniel has slowed down a bit since his massive game at Oregon, but Olivier Nkamhoua is stepping up big time, averaging 16.5 PPG this season. The next step is for Tarris Reed to become a bigger part of the offense, and the sophomore is averaging 16 points and seven rebounds over the past two games. A good showing from Reed will go a long way on Tuesday.