What began as such a promising NCAA Tournament for the Big Ten Conference crashed in utter shambles by the end of the second round, disposing of Illinois and Ohio State at the very top of that heap.
The Michigan Wolverines (22-4) is the only team remaining after all that detritus got swept away. The fact that it’s still kicking is a testament to the preparedness of second-year coach, Juwan Howard, and reserve player, Chaundee Brown.
Now, here comes Florida State (18-6). Think the Wolverines were unlucky in losing ultra-talented 6-foot-7 senior Isaiah Livers to a foot injury in the conference tournament?
The Seminoles might be even more unlucky. By one metric, they are rated as one of the unluckiest squads remaining in March Madness. It all factors into NCAA basketball-betting plans as we eke closer to the Final Four.
Michigan -2.5 vs. Florida State, Total 143.5, Sunday, 5 pm ET
Michigan Sports Betting Action: Michigan -2.5 and Under 143.5
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How The Two Teams Stack Up
When the Seminoles play defense as they did in the first two rounds of the NCAAs, only a smidgen of fortune is needed on the other end to ensure a minimal amount of points are scored to secure a victory.
In addition, depending upon how carefully patrons shopped, they covered twice, narrowly as a 9.5-point favorite in a 64-54 victory over North Carolina-Greensboro in the opener. That clampdown defense deserves attention.
|BetMGM Sportsbook||Point Spread||Moneyline||Totals|
|Michigan||-2.5 (-112)||-145||O 143.5 (-109)|
|Florida State||+2.5 (-108)||+120||U 143.5 (-112)|
Against Greensboro and Colorado, FSU (the tallest team in the land) limited its opponents to 40.6% shooting within the arc and 25% from long range. Michigan, though, will be able to look across the court and see a team a lot like itself, with a hound-dog mentality and unyielding pressure.
Forwards Franz Wagner and Brandon Johns, and Hunter Dickinson bolster the Wolverines’ post play, and perimeter defenders Mike Smith, Eli Brooks, and Brown have been dynamic.
Michigan has kept its two NCAA opponents to 42.3% shooting inside the arc and a scant 21.2% beyond it. In the opener, Texas Southern canned only one of its dozen from long range.
Michigan By TKO
Junior forward RaiQuan Gray (17 points, 13 boards against Colorado) and junior swingman Anthony Polite (22 points, 5 boards, 5 assists vs Greensboro) are exceptional for Florida State.
Freshman forward Scottie Barnes (56.5% 2-point shooter) and senior shooter MJ Walker (43.6% from the perimeter) have exhibited superb season-long consistency.
Balsa Koprivica, a 7-1 sophomore from Serbia, will exchange elbows with the 7-1 rookie Dickinson in what will become a heavyweight main event under each hoop. That duel alone should be a pay-per-view feature.
However, while some tout the Seminoles’ long-distance shooting, we see no advantage. Florida State (38.2%) and Michigan (38.5%) are a push from long range, as are their perimeter defenses. In general, we gauge the Wolverines with the better offense and defense. Michigan shoots free throws better than its counterparts (78% to 73.9%) and takes better care of the ball.
Oh yeah, that luck factor. On stats guru Ken Pomeroy’s vast databases, he has Florida State tied with USC, at -.008, in the next-to-last spot of all remaining NCAA Tournament teams. Loyola (-0.15) is in the basement. At +.029, Michigan is smack in the middle of the remaining Sweet 16.
A point apiece for edges on both sides of the ball, another for its better ball control, at least a point for its charity-stripe advantage, and, well, the better luck factor must be worth at least another point, and we have the comfortable cover.
Moreover, strong defensive action on both sides leads us to an additional Under play.
Chaundee Is Dandy
Chaundee Brown has been our superstar of the tournament, with slight apologies to Syracuse marksman Buddy Boeheim and, well, take your pick of Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Brown, a 6-5 guard from Orlando, went to Wake Forest, scored some points, and lost a lot. In his first two seasons, he scored at least 20 points seven times, and the Demon Deacons lost every one of those games.
As a junior, it turned around a bit. The five times he tallied at least 20, Wake went 5-0 but still finished the season with a sub-.500 record. Sacrificing personal stats for a winning experience, he became enamored with the Michigan hoops program before ever touching down in Ann Arbor.
Promised nothing, he fit into Howard’s plans as a reserve and never complained. In the one game, Brown did start (at Minnesota), Michigan lost.
Sunday, in 27 minutes off the bench, Brown sank all three of his 2-pointers, went 3-for-6 from 3-point land, and drilled all six of his free throws, to finish with 21 points, tying Brooks for team-high honors.
Brown nabbed three defensive rebounds and gave out an assist. He had no turnovers. In fact, he’s had four total turnovers in his past 12 games.
When he scores at least 15 for the Wolverines, they are 4-0.
Words From The Coaches
“When you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” Howard told reporters. “What he was doing does not show up in a box score. Chaundee has been rock-steady all season long. My focus is on winning, and he has done a lot of special things to help us win.”
Brown says his coaches trust him to trust his instincts. That, and praying before games, boosts him. “I [tell] myself, ‘Be you, and great things will happen.’ ”
With sage foresight, he told the Detroit Free Press in late October he expected to make smart decisions: staying down and not going for pump fakes on defense, being vocal, helping the younger guys, and leading by example, getting into the lane and taking fouls — this season.
“It’s really a family here. That’s what coach Howard touched on in my Zoom calls I had with him months before I committed, that it was a family here and everyone gets along, laughing, giggling. I’ve never had a team like this.”