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There were a few things Florida needed to do to beat Michigan on Sunday to advance to the Final Four.
The Gators needed to force Michigan into turning the ball over, thus allowing them to get out in transition and score points. The Gators needed to contain perimeter shooters that allow the Wolverines to get on a run. And Florida needed to exploit any advantage it would have on the interior against Michigan’s front.
It didn’t work out that way.
Michigan turned the ball over just nine times, shot 10-of-19 from three-point range, and got 11 points and nine rebounds from freshman Mitch McGary in a 79-59 win Sunday afternoon at Texas Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The win gives Michigan a berth in the Final Four in Atlanta.
Coming into Sunday, that was the biggest obstacle for Florida. For a team that makes its living forcing turnovers and turning that into offense, the matchup with Michigan gives them the opposite. Trey Burke led a transition attack in the first half that pushed the lead to as much as 24 points after a Nik Stauskas three with 4:01 remaining.
MORE: Photos from the Elite Eight
Florida seemed to lose track of Stauskas in the first half. Nearly every look he got from the perimeter was an open one and he converted with 22 points on 6-of-6 shooting from three-point range. He and Spike Albrecht, who had seven points on the night and was a defensive factor in the second half with four steals, overextended the Florida defense.
MORE: Mental miscues, questionable coaching decisions doom Gators
Michigan now moves on to play Syracuse in the Final Four in Atlanta. Wichita State, who beat Ohio State to advance to Atlanta, awaits the winner of Duke and Louisville. It is the first time the Wolverines have reached the Final Four since the famed “Fab Five” did it in 1993 and it is the first appearance for coach John Beilein.
Florida has now lost in three straight Elite Eights.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.