On paper, one of the tightest matches of the Sweet 16 features the no. 1 seed Michigan Wolverines facing the no. 4 Florida State Seminoles. The game is Sunday at 5:00 EST at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Wolverines are favored by 2.5 points, with the over/under set at 143.5 points.
There were a few questions about the ‘Noles heading into the tournament, as they lost three of their last five games and literally threw away the ACC Tournament final with turnovers. But Leonard Hamilton’s team looked much better during the opening weekend of the tournament. FSU survived an upset bid from UNC-Greensboro in the First Round and then asserted themselves during an 18-point win over Colorado.
Likewise, the Wolverines had questions heading into the tournament, with Isaiah Livers unavailable due to injury. But Michigan had no trouble with Texas Southern in the First Round and then came from behind to beat LSU in the Round of 32. The Wolverines rarely led during the first 30 minutes of the game but finished strong thanks to strong performances by their supporting cast.
With Livers’ status uncertain, Michigan needs to keep getting strong contributions from the supporting cast. Against LSU, both Eli Brooks and Chaundee Brown scored 21 points each to carry Michigan to victory. Mike Smith is also a player who’s capable of producing more, although the Columbia transfer had just five points against LSU despite dishing out six assists. Assuming Livers can’t play, Brandon Johns will also be important. Even if he doesn’t score a lot, his rebounding will be useful.
Of course, whether Livers plays or not, the Wolverines will need Franz Wagner and Hunter Dickinson to step up. Dickinson is coming off a double-double against LSU but will be tested by the size of FSU’s frontcourt. Wagner was also sharp in the Round of 32, although he will need to carry more of the scoring burden moving forward if Livers remains out after taking just 16 shots over the first two games.
Who’s It Gonna Be?
One of the frustrating things about Florida State is they are so balanced offensively that key players aren’t always the stand-out players in a game. For instance, leading scorer M.J. Walker scored just 11 points over the team’s first two games. Star freshman Scottie Barnes also had just 10 points and six assists over two games last weekend.
The silver lining is that Hamilton goes deep on his bench, creating opportunities for other players to shine. For example, Anthony Polite scored 34 over the first two rounds, including a 22-point performance against Colorado. Other role players like Malik Osborne or RayQuan Evans are also capable of expanding their role in any given game, making the Seminoles tough to scout.
An Ugly One
This game is a rematch of an Elite Eight game from 2018 that Michigan won 58-54. Sunday’s game could be just as ugly, especially if Michigan is without Livers. The Seminoles have such an abundance of size and athleticism at every position that Wagner and Dickinson may not create mismatches the way they usually do. Look for FSU to force an ugly, low-scoring game, allowing them to beat the 2.5-point spread and possibly pull off the upset.
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