vs. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
NCAA Tournament – Elite Eight – Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Tip-off: Friday, 8:49 pm ET
Line: Michigan -4.5, Total: 143
No one wants to play Michigan right now, but the Noles have proven they won't back down from a challenge.
With a Loyola-Kansas State matchup set to take place in the South Region, Michigan-Florida State is far from the weirdest showdown set for the Elite Eight. And yet, it's still quite odd. Michigan isn't that much of a surprise, having set a precedent last season of going on to make noise in the tourney after winning a Big Ten championship. Florida State, on the other hand, feels rather out-of-nowhere. It's not that the Seminoles aren't a solid team—they beat six different tournament teams during the regular season—but more that, on paper at least, this is far from the most talented bunch Leonard Hamilton has coached in Tallahassee in recent years. But it demonstrated toughness and resilience in its comeback win over No. 1 Xavier, and proved that it was no fluke with a 75-60 win over No. 4 seed Gonzaga on Thursday that was shocking in its dominance. After two hard-fought, but boring, wins to get to the Sweet Sixteen, Michigan exploded against No. 7 seed Texas A&M on Thursday, shooting the lights out in a 99-72 triumph. Simply put, Michigan cannot be beat if they continue to play that well on offense. Since 1997, underdogs that have gone under the total by at least 48 points total in their last seven games (FSU) are 67-32 ATS in non-conference games between major-conference opponents. Over the last five seasons, neutral court games featuring non-conference opponents from major conferences when each team is only playing its third game (or fewer) in a week are 98-45 Under against totals between 140 and 149.5.
Michigan stars F Moritz Wagner and G Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman were mostly quiet and/or cold on offense early in the tourney, but that was far from the case against Texas A&M. Wagner notched 21 points on eight shots, while Abdur-Rahkman poured in 24 on 16 field goal attempts. Abdur-Rahkman stuffed the rest of the stat line, too, finishing with five rebounds and seven assists. The duo combined to shoot 7-of-10 from three, which was practically a death sentence for the Aggies. If Wagner can do that against a fearsome A&M front line, there's no reason he shouldn't be able to perform similarly against FSU. Abdur-Rahkman nearly cost the team its season with a missed layup in the previous round, and to see him bounce back with a vengeance was a relief for the Wolverines. G Charles Matthews was just as hot, hitting 8 of 11 shots for 18 points. After only nine total points through two rounds, G Zavier Simpson hit 5 of 8 shots for Michigan to rack up 11 points, and had a devastating six steals on the other end of the floor to go with five assists. Michigan played its whole bench in the blowout, but only sixth man G Duncan Robinson hit double-digits minutes as a reserve. Robinson scored 10 points in 20 minutes.
Without guys like Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, many college basketball fans might be unable to name a Florida State Seminole. But in Tallahassee—and now in Columbia, Cincinnati and Spokane—they know that it's still a formidable group of players that make up this year's FSU team. On a team that thrives on sharing the load, G Terance Mann is the closest thing to a headliner—and even he barely made All-ACC Honorable Mention. He looked fully the part of the star against Gonzaga, scoring 18 points as the only Seminole in double figures. He also played seven more minutes than any other Nole with 33, and added five rebounds. G C.J. Walker, who was clutch late against Xavier, got all nine of his points on threes against the Zags. G Brian Angola had nine as well, also adding six rebounds and five assists. G Trent Forrest had similar stats off the bench, pitching in seven points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals. Two other players score seven points for FSU, and another had six. It was truly a team effort on offense, which is exactly what this star-less team will need again to take down Michigan. That and gritty perimeter defense, as forcing Michigan into turnovers would prevent them from getting into the red-hot rhythm they established against A&M.