The road to the Final Four rolls on and this time we head to the East Region for the previews. Michigan is the top seed but with an injured Isaiah Livers, many believe the Wolverines are on upset alert. Alabama is analytically elite, they play elite defense, and shoot the three at an elite level. Florida State is doing what they always do, playing with elite size and switchability in order to have success. UCLA rounds out the four teams in this region, they are here because of great play from Jaime Jaquez and Johnny Juzang. This region probably has the most fun Sweet 16 games of any region, so let’s dive into these matchups.
1.Michigan vs. 4.Florida State
5 PM ET on CBS
Maybe the best game of the Sweet 16 sees the first 1 vs 4 matchup of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan won the Big Ten regular-season Championship but things are looking rocky. Isaiah Livers is injured, while the Wolverines haven’t played their best basketball in their most recent games. The Wolverines will attack by dumping the ball into Hunter Dickinson and having him make plays, either by scoring out of the post or pass it to the outside. On the perimeter, Eli Brooks and Mike Smith are dual point guards that can score, attack, and pass at a high level. Franz Wagner is an elite three-and-D wing that can lead the team in scoring on any night, while the Wolverines have a good bench.
New year, new players, same Florida State basketball team. The Seminoles have a deep group of players that are all long and athletic. MJ Walker is the go-to scorer, although the leading scorer on the team changes by game. Raiquan Gray and Scottie Barnes play as point forwards as they can both run the point for this team while having the speed and strength to get inside. Anthony Polite and Sardaar Calhoun provide shooting, while Balsa Koprivica is a unicorn-type big man.
The key to this game comes down to what happens when Michigan is on offense. The Wolverines probably won’t be able to have as much success dumping it into Dickinson because of the Seminoles’ length inside. That means they’ll need another great shooting night from Eli Brooks, Mike Smith, and Chaundee Brown. Florida State’s turnover issues could come into effect as well, so forcing 15-20 turnovers is also within range for Michigan. I am rolling with Florida State in this one, I just think this is a bad matchup for the Wolverines.
Prediction: Florida State 71 Michigan 65
2.Alabama vs. 11.UCLA
7:15 PM ET on TBS
Two of the better offenses in College Basketball will square off for the right to head to the Elite Eight. The Crimson Tide are analytically driven, they shoot either threes or shots in the paint. The Crimson Tide also has one of the better defenses in College Basketball, they are tough, scrappy, and can get into transition. Herb Jones is the do-everything guy, he’s a great scorer, defender, and has been good running the point. John Petty Jr, Jaden Shackelford, and Jahvon Quinerly also provide the shooting needed to make this team go.
For UCLA, this season hasn’t been perfect by any means. They’ve lost Chris Smith and Jalen Hill mid-season but they are playing with house money and are playing well. Tyger Campbell runs the point for the Bruins, he’s not a gifted scorer but he sets the tone without turning it over. Jaime Jaquez and Johnny Juzang are elite scorers, who both have been fantastic in this tournament. In order to win, they probably will need big games from both of them. Cody Riley and Jules Bernard round out a solid starting five. The Bruins are a team that really isn’t going to beat itself because they don’t really turn it over and aren’t going to get beat defensively.
The key to this game comes down to what UCLA does to stop Alabama’s barrage of threes. If the Bruins sellout on the three-point line similar to what Iona did, they have a good shot. Of course, Alabama is able to counter by attacking the paint with Jahvon Quinerly and Herb Jones. I think Mick Cronin will have a really good game plan set up for this game. That said, I think the Tide is still too good and too talented, so I’ll be rolling with the Tide.
Prediction: Alabama 78 UCLA 66