After knocking off Texas Southern and LSU in the first two rounds of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, the Michigan Wolverines advanced to the program’s fourth straight Sweet 16 earlier this week. The team is now preparing for a matchup against Florida State on Sunday. It’s the second meeting between the two programs in the NCAA Tournament in four years and figures one of the most intriguing games of the weekend.
But could Florida State be a nightmare matchup for Michigan?
Let’s take a deep look at the keys for the matchup.
1. Florida State is insanely long.
Most people who’ve watched college basketball in recent years know this, but Florida State is a team loaded with length. The Seminoles led the nation in average height (per KenPom) and the team’s rotation features five players listed at 6-foot-8 or above, including Scottie Barnes and RaiQuan Gray, who were some of the ACC’s most productive players.
All that length has an impact, too. While Florida State isn’t an elite team defensively, the team can create a lot of turnovers. Barnes and Gray are specifically great in this regard, as both finished among the top 10 in the ACC in steal rate. Colorado committed 19 turnovers in the team’s loss to Florida State on Monday.
There’s little debating this is going to put a lot of pressure on Eli Brooks and Mike Smith. They’re going to have to have to make smart decisions with the ball and avoid careless turnovers, which was an issue for Smith in Monday’s win over LSU. This is arguably Michigan’s biggest challenge for this weekend.
2. Hunter Dickinson will have a lot of pressure on him.
Over the course of this season, Hunter Dickinson has been Michigan’s most productive player. He’s been incredibly efficient on the offensive end, has cleaned up on the boards, and has been able to dial up offense when the Wolverines have needed it. KenPom ranks him as one of the top 10 players in the country this season.
Against Florida State, Dickinson should have an advantage. Balsa Koprivica and Florida State’s other frontcourt options are solid players, but they’re certainly not All-American candidates like Dickinson. That means two things: (1) Dickinson needs to capitalize on his matchup; and (2) Florida State is likely going to help against him.
The first point is obvious: If the Wolverines are going to get outscored at other positions, Dickinson needs to make up the difference with his battle. And that doesn’t seem like a huge stretch. Koprivica is massive at 7-foot-1, but is a pretty inconsistent scorer and generally doesn’t play against big men with Dickinson’s size and strength. Again, Dickinson is a better overall player. That doesn’t mean he will be Sunday, but the expectation is he will outperform his opponent.
But the second point is a little trickier. Like many of Michigan’s recent opponents, I anticipate Florida State will help against Dickinson, at least in some way. But does that mean they immediately double when he gets the ball, use a delayed double, or hedge against him? It’s probably going to be some sort of mix, but expect a lot of length to be thrown at him. This is going to make Dickinson’s passing tremendously important. If he can find shooters on the perimeter, there will likely be some opportunities. How Dickinson performs could likely determine this game.
3. The turnover battle.
This has been alluded to several times in this piece, but the turnover battle is the thing to watch in Sunday’s matchup. Not only for Michigan offensively, but defensively as well. While Florida State has the capability of forcing turnovers defensively, the Seminoles are pretty loose with the ball themselves, ranking 254th in offensive turnover rate.
This is a spot where Franz Wagner can shine. If he can get a few timely steals, it could mean big things for Michigan on Sunday. He’s been the defensive difference maker for the Wolverines numerous times this season.
Sunday figures to be a great game. And while Florida State presents some challenges, this doesn’t project to be the “nightmare matchup” some believe. Expect a tough game that comes down to whoever protects the ball better.