One thing is certain in this year’s NCAA tournament, there will be two new teams in the title game. The Sweet 16 games have continued the pace of upsets and left two team in the Elite 8. The defending Champion North Carolina Tar Heels and runner-up Gonzaga Bulldogs fell in the West Region before reaching the Elite Eight. After a relatively quiet first round, the West Region has shaken up with a matchup pitting the 9-seed Florida State Seminoles against the 3-seed Michigan Wolverines. These two teams defeated some of the better programs in the nation on their trail to this point, yet only one may move on. The past few days games tell a strong story for why each of these teams is equipped to make a run to the title.
NCAA Tournament: Storylines from Elite 8 West Region
Michigan Terrorizes from Three
Against the 7-seed Texas A&M Aggies, Michigan shot an overwhelming 58.3 percent from three, hitting 14 total. What is more outstanding is that they shot 10 of 16 in the first half alone. Shooting at that high percentage can topple any defense as long as the opposition isn’t doing the same. The Wolverines had two players shooting the lights out in forward Moritz Wagner and guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman as they combined for 45 points. This along with the seven three-pointers they made between the two of them. The Wolverines turned it on and never let go, winning by 27 points. Which in this tournament seems pretty normal so far.
Florida State Capitalizes
At one point Gonzaga had taken 26 layups, all of which were contested by an aggressive Seminole player. At the time of that statistic, the Bulldogs had only scored on nine of them. Combined with their prolific passing with 19 assists as a team, the Seminoles looked to win with good fundamental basketball. Out of a total of 13 players who logged minutes in the game, 11 of those scored baskets and 6 made assists. The old adage about college basketball being more fundamental still rings true occasionally. In a time where basketball is evolving into a much different game, sometimes the old-fashioned skills come into play.
An Offensive Force in Michigan
The Wolverines were practically unstoppable with regards to their offense. The aforementioned three-point percentage aside, they accumulated 21 assists while five of their players scored in double-digits. Highlighting a bad stat can sometimes reflect how good other areas were and the Wolverines only had two offensive rebounds. That sort of stat-line is something a coach would absolutely lose their mind over. Yet, on that night it only showed how good the team was shooting from the field. Setting up good shots and getting the ball around ended up negating a need for offensive rebounding.
History of the Programs
This marks the end of a long drought for Florida State as they haven’t seen the Elite Eight since 1993. Additionally, the last time they reached the Final Four was in a loss against UCLA in 1972. Whereas their opponents in Michigan have been to the Elite Eight three times since 2013 and only once moving on to an eventual championship game. This obviously favors the Wolverines experience and a coaching staff that has prepared for these big games.
The Road So Far
Between the two programs, Michigan has had an easier time dealing with their opponents. Outside of one game-winning shot against Houston in the 2nd round, their other two wins have come by a combined 41 points. Matching up against 14-seed Montana, then 6-seed Houston in a nail-biter, and last rounds thumping of 7-seed Texas A&M. As opposed to possibly having to face defending champion North Carolina, the Wolverines have had a considerably easier run than opponent Seminoles have. Florida St. played against 8-seed Missouri, 1-seed Xavier, and 4-seed Gonzaga. Although, these wins have been by at least five points or more with a combined 33-point win margin throughout.
An exciting tournament occurred already and there is still three rounds of basketball to go. The West Region has it’s own surprises and may see a few more March Madness moments before the end. The other regions of the tournament have also added to the tumultuous matchups in the tournament as historic defeats and blowouts accentuate the screens.