1. Kansas (Big 12 Champion, 31-5) vs. 4. Michigan (Big Ten at-large, 28-7)
3. Florida (SEC at-large, 28-7) vs. 15. Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun Champion, 25-8)
Regional Semi-Finals Predictions
Kansas has gotten-off to very slow starts in both of their victories over Western Kentucky and North Carolina, before turning-it on in the second half after making defensive adjustments. Michigan has looked very impressive, especially in taking-down a very good VCU club, after splitting their last 12 games in the Big Ten regular and post-season. Both teams are outstanding in transition, preferring to get quick, high-percentage shots before going into their half court sets. I give the offensive edge to the Wolverines, starting with PG Trey Burke who will have his hands on the basketball with the game on the line. Freshmen Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary have been outstanding in the tournament, as Michigan is distributing the ball better and getting everyone involved; something they weren’t doing at the conclusion of the season.
The Jayhawks have the advantage defensively and are more experienced in this type of atmosphere. The adjustments that coach Bill Self made in thwarting the offenses of Western Kentucky and North Carolina is really what propelled them to victory in the first two games, and I look for that to continue. C Jeff Withey is a formidable big man who should defend the interior well and will get looks inside, though Michigan has enough bodies (McGary, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan) to throw at him. Ben McLemore is the explosive-type player that can take-over games and has really gelled with PG Elijah Johnson. This game is going to be close and subject to various runs by both teams, but look for the Jayhawks use their experience to put the game away in the final seconds.
Florida has a fairly easy time in their opening two games against Northwestern State and Minnesota, and of all the teams that I’ve watched this season, the Gators are as good as anyone when everything is clicking. Florida Gulf Coast is the Cinderella Story of the NCAA Tournament, knocking-off second-seeded Georgetown and defeating San Diego State in a hard-fought battle. The Gators are able to attack defenses with their efficient, yet diverse offense that features a strong inside game with outstanding perimeter shooting. They do not turn the ball over and have three outstanding guards (Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Scottie Wilbekin) that can score and move the basketball. C Patric Young is an interior presence on both ends of the floor that the Eagles will have trouble dealing with.
Florida Gulf Coast employs essentially a four-guard set, led by leading scorer Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson. The Eagles pass the ball very well with a solid assist-to-turnover ratio, but thrive at transition, trying to push the tempo in every contest. Defensively, they are very active and are one of the top teams in the NCAA in steals. Athletically, they can match-up with Florida, as they showed in their early-season victory against Miami-FL. This should be a very up-tempo game, though I believe this game will be decided in the paint, where the Gators should have a rebounding edge (always key to initiating transition) and the Eagles struggling to find an answer to dealing with Young and Erik Murphy.
Regional Final Prediction
Kansas and Florida have very similar styles, using pressure-defense to create turnovers, getting-out into transition, taking-care of the basketball, and featuring a solid, inside-outside game. Both teams and coaches are battle-tested, so no advantage there. This game is going to come-down to one thing; shooting the basketball. One of the things that has not been consistent for the Jayhawks is finding a consistent outside threat beyond McLemore. Florida, on the other hand, seems to score the ball a little easier, and can mix-it-up between several different players. Kansas plays more evenly-keeled, whereas Florida is capable of significant runs. Go with the Gators in a classic shootout and represent the South Region in the Final Four.
Deric McKamey is a Scout ad Corespondent for NetScouts Basketball.