Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 9:00 PM
It looked for most of evening Friday Night that the Michigan Wolverines would be heading home to watch the Elite Eight games on TV with the rest of us. They couldn’t stop Kansas inside. They couldn’t hit any baskets. They were down by double digits with less than five minutes to go in the game.
You know what happened next. Michigan started hitting some shots. Kansas got complacent, overconfident, afraid, terrified, then sent packing themselves! Michigan’s miraculous comeback puts the Wolverines in position to steal a Final Four spot against a Florida Gators team that’s been moving in fits and starts through the postseason.
Florida at its best is better than overrated Kansas, and could coast to an easy cover. But, Florida has had troubles playing 40 full minutes of high quality basketball. They lost in the SEC finals to Ole Miss. They were close with Northwestern State and Florida Gulf Coast until deep in the first half. Florida hasn’t played a team as good as Michigan since BEFORE their conference action began in the SEC!
Let’s see what our key indicator stats say about this game…
Michigan: 29-7 (12-6 in the Big 10)
Florida: 29-7 (14-4 in the SEC)
Funny that they have identical won-lost records through 36 games. Florida had the stronger mark in the SEC, but the SEC was the lesser of the two conferences. That’s one of the tricky elements for handicappers here. Through the season, the Big 10 was seen as MUCH superior. Yet, Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin all failed, as power teams, to play to tourney expectations. Michigan probably should have joined them on the sidelines as well. If the Big 10 was overrated by a lot…then Michigan is less likely to be a dangerous dog here.
Michigan: #10 with Sagarin, #7 with Pomeroy
Florida: #2 with Sagarin, #1 with Pomeroy
Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball Ken Pomeroy both see Florida as the superior team. Heck, both see Florida as neck-and-neck with Louisville for “best in the tournament” even though the Gators were only a #3 seed in the South region. Michigan only got a #4 seed themselves, and both computers would have them better than that. A classic Elite Eight game according to the computers.
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Michigan: #10 with Sagarin, #11 with Pomeroy
Florida: #26 with Sagarin, #41 with Pomeroy
Big edge to Michigan here…though it’s possible those numbers are exaggerated because the computers were giving too much credit to the Big 10. They were more battle-tested however you slice it. Even if the Big 10 was overrated…the SEC as a whole was clearly BAD. Alabama and Tennessee couldn’t even advance through home games in the NIT
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50
Here’s where “battle tested” really jumps out at you. Michigan played 17 games vs. Sagarin’s Top 50, while Florida only played 11. Most importantly, Florida barely made it past .500 when they faced quality. It’s noteworthy that an easy Dance schedule didn’t help this record much. It was a gift that they got to face a #15 seed in the Sweet 16. Florida has struggled to keep its composure when decent opponents weren’t intimidated. Michigan almost made it to .667 against a slew of challenges.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Michigan is the best offense in the country after you adjust for tempo and strength of schedule according to Pomeroy’s methodology. Florida is just behind them at #5. These aren’t seen by the media as super-lethal offenses because each team plays at a below average pace. Once you look at what they’re doing on a per-possession basis, you get a much better sense of low lethal they are.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
This is what separates the teams in the computers. Florida really shuts people down on a per-possession basis (though that may be polluted because of a weak schedule). Michigan is actually soft inside, allowing an alarming percentage on two-point baskets. Only Florida has a terrific defense. Michigan’s defense is poor by tournament standards. Sure, top 50 is nice out of 300-plus teams in the regular season. It was one of the worst in the Sweet 16.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
Here’s what we mean about slow. Michigan is below average. Florida is basically Wisconsin in different uniforms. Michigan is used to playing slow in the Big 10, so nothing here will phase them. Look for a methodical game where Florida tries to work for easy buckets inside or open looks at treys, while Michigan tries to get the ball to their big men for layups supplemented by guard scoring on penetration. This game will really have a chess feel to it because neither team is likely to run except when it’s absolutely wide open.
The Under might deserve a look because of the methodical pace and the awkward shooting backdrop in Cowboys Stadium (though Michigan’s defense will need to pick up its intensity!). JIM HURLEY’S team side decision can be purchased with his full Sunday ticket here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about basketball, or Sunday Night’s official start to the Major League Baseball season, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
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