Michigan controlled tempo from the start and now it’s in the Final Four

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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_

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.