Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:59 PM
Saturday - Session 2
West Region - Des Moines, IA - Wells Fargo Arena
#10 Florida vs. #2 Michigan - 5:15 PM EST - CBS
Opening Odds: Michigan -6.5, 123
-- Michigan (29-6 SU, 20-15 ATS) rebounded from its loss in the Big Ten Championship game to Michigan State by dominating Montana in the first round, rolling by the Big Sky champ 74-55, coming through with the cover as a 15-point favorite. The Wolverines haven't lost consecutive games all season and haven't lost to an opponent not named Michigan State since Feb. 12.
-- The Wolverines are looking for their third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance in what has been yet another fantastic season under John Beilein, who signed an extension in the offseason after emerging as a finalist for the Detroit Pistons head coaching vacancy eventually filled by Dwane Casey.
-- Florida (20-15 SU, 17-18 ATS) pulled off an upset over Nevada, eliminating the No. 7 seed and eliminating a Wolf Pack team that was among the most successful in program history. The Gators dominated early and then held on for dear life after having an 18-point lead trimmed to 63-61 with just over two minutes remaining. After entering the SEC Tournament with its inclusion in these NCAAs in doubt, Florida dropped Arkansas, upset LSU and then gave eventual champion Auburn a great game to seal an at-large bid.
-- Florida employs one of college basketball's slowest tempos, preferring to lock in defensively to utlize its collective size to stifle opponents. The Gators ranked in the bottom-10 in D-I in tempo entering the NCAAs according to tempo. Freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard has made significant strides throughout the season but faces a difficult challenge against counterpart Xavier Simpson, who has emerged as the heart of this Wolverines team throughout the season and ended up with 10 assists and seven rebounds to offset a slow shooting start. Simpson uncharacteristically committed four first-half turnovers but moved into No. 7 on Michigan's all-time assists list, passing Trey Burke.
-- Michigan ranks second in defensive efficiency per KenPom, surrendering an average of just 58.5 points per game, also second nationally, holding seven of its last nine opponents under 70 points. Michigan State was able to surpass that mark both times, so count on Mike White cramming in a lot of MSU-Michigan film between now and tip-off as he looks to take the Gators to their second Sweet 16 under his watch, the first since 2015.
-- The Wolverines are looking for their fifth Sweet 16 appearance in seven seasons under Beilein, which would set a Michigan record. He's currently tied with Steve Fisher with four Sweet 16s.
-- Michigan senior Charles Matthews missed time late in the season with an ankle injury but looked healthy in the Round of 64, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a great development for the Maize and Blue's chances. Freshman Iggy Brazdeikis put up 14 points and seven rebounds in his first NCAA Tournament game. He leads Michigan in scoring, averaging 15.0 points per game.
-- The Wolverines reached the Sweet 16 last season thanks to a 3-pointer at the buzzer of their Round of 32 game by then-freshman Jordan Poole, so expect to see that highlight a few times today. He remains Michigan's x-factor. Florida's leading scorer, KeVaughn Allen (11.9 ppg) went scoreless in the opening half against Nevada, but x-factors Jalen Hudson and Kevarrius Hayes kept the Gators afloat with big starts they'll need to replicate to give their team a shot at pulling off this upset.
The 'under' has prevailed in four of the past five games involving Florida, extending a 12-3 run in Gators' games since the calendar hit February.
-- Michigan entered the NCAA Tournament with 20/1 odds to win it all, per the Westgate Superbook. Florida was slotted at 200-to-1.
West Region - Hartford, CT - XL Center
#12 Murray State vs. #4 Florida State - 6:10 PM EST - TNT
Opening Odds: FSU -4.5, 144.5
-- It's no surprise to see Murray State (29-5 SU, 20-10 ATS) destroyed Marquette in their tournament opener, rolling to an 83-64 rout behind 17 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists from point guard Ja Morant. The likely top-five NBA pick easily won his individual matchup with Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard to lead his team to a dominant performance in which they were running clock three-quarters of the way in.
-- Morant's triple-double was his third of the season and fourth of his career. The sophomore floor general has rightfully become a household name in college basketball circles this season and became the first to pull off a triple-double since Draymond Green pulled one out for Michigan State back in 2012. Freshman Tevin Brown, Morant's former AAU teammate, hit his first four three-pointers to help Morant set the tone. All five Murray starters scored at least nine points, so nerves weren't visible as the small Kentucky-based school imposed their will on the Golden Eagles.
-- Florida State (28-7 SU, 16-19 ATS) defeated a very solid Vermont squad, overcoming the Catamounts' fantastic 3-point shooting with their game-changing athleticism and size that ultimately wore down the America East power. The Noles rebounded from an ACC Tournament championship game loss to Duke.
-- Mfiondu Kabengele showed everyone who hadn't seen him why he's an intriguing NBA prospect and how he came to emerge as the ACC Sixth Man of the Year. Kabengele led the Seminoles in scoring (12.9 ppg) and finished with 21 points and 10 boards in making sure the opener against Vermont didn't get as interesting as it probably should have. Dikembe Mutombo's nephew has a great chance to emerge as a lottery pick if he leaves early and makes this matchup one all scouts will be glued to.
-- The 'Noles did receive awful news after their win over Vermont since senior forward Phil Cofer found out his father had passed away. He's decided to stay put with the team through this game, so the Noles will have to channel their emotions productively to overcome this obstacle.
-- Beyond Kabengele, FSU also boasts 7-foot-4 center Christ Koumadje in addition to Cofer and a collection of large, athletic wings, making them the biggest team Murray State will have run into. The Racers lost to Auburn and Alabama in non-conference play in their only meetings with high-majors prior to Thursday's victory over Marquette. The Racers have won 12 consecutive games and are 1-2 in career meetings vs. the 'Noles, last playing them in 1998.
-- The Seminoles have won 15 of 17 games, losing only top top-seeds North Carolina and Duke. They're not great against the spread, covering in only three of their last nine.
-- Count on their effectiveness shooting the 3-ball to tell the story if the Racers are to pull off the upset since Morant's ability to get to the rim will be mititgated some by the size of Koumadje and Kabengele. Murray State shot 9-for-18 from beyond the arc in the Round of 32. Vermont finished 16-for-32 against the Noles, who haven't defended the 3-ball well despite their length on the perimeter. Morant, Brown and senior Leroy Buchanan will have to be productive from 3-point range to give themselves a chance.
-- The Seminoles were 40/1 to win the NCAA Tournament per Westgate when the tournament began, while the Racers were a popular longshot at 300/1.
-- The 'under' is on a 6-3 run in FSU games.
West Region - Salt Lake City, UT - Vivint Smart Home Arena
#9 Baylor vs. #1 Gonzaga - 7:10 PM EST - TBS
Opening Odds: Gonzaga -13.5, 148.5
-- Following an embarrassing loss to rival Saint Mary's in the West Coast final in which it scored a season-low 47 points, Gonzaga (31-3 SU, 22-12 ATS) rebounded from one of the most puzzling games we've seen this March by destroying Fairleigh Dickinson 87-49. The loss to the Gaels didn't cost the West's biggest juggernaut their No. 1 seed and they managed to play like they were deserving in a dominant effort against the Northeast Conference champs.
-- Baylor (20-13 SU, 17-14-2 ATS) took down Syracuse, pulling away in a tight game and taking advantage of the Orange suspending key senior wing Frank Howard, whose presence was missed as Syracuse struggled to find a third scorer to pair with Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle. That should take nothing away from the Bears, who rode 16 3-pointers to the mild upset.
-- If Baylor is to challenge Gonzaga, it's going to require another 16 3-pointers, at least, to overcome a lack of depth. Makai Mason, who had a great run with Yale a few years ago and led the Bears in scoring (14.9 ppg) as a graduate transfer, overcame foot pain that has plagued him the past month-plus to knock down four 3-pointers, finishing with 22 points while racking up four assists and three steals to fuel the upset. Gonzaga will know where he is at all times.
-- The Bears lost top forward Tristan Clark back in January to a knee injury and have been working short-handed since, a credit to Scott Drew in what has been one of the best coaching jobs of his career. Brother Bryce was let go as head coach by Vanderbilt on Thursday. Scott Drew has dealt with a lot of criticism in Waco over his game management but would lead Baylor to its fifth Sweet 16 appearance over the past decade with an upset here.
-- Gonzaga has often been stifling on defense due to its depth and athleticism, but its calling card is the nation's most efficient, prolific offense, which is averaging a national-best 88.8 points per game. Rui Hachimura, a likely lottery pick, leads four double-digit scorers, averaging 20.1 points.
-- The Bulldogs led the nation in point differential, defeating teams by an average of 24.2 points. Gonzaga went 6-2 against high-majors, losing only to Tennessee and North Carolina while defeating the likes of Duke, Arizona and Creighton.
-- Mark Few has won roughly five of every six games he's coached in since taking over the program from Dan Monson back in 1999 and has gotten out of the first weekend of NCAA Tournament play in eight straight years. The Bulldogs played for the national championship in 2017, losing to North Carolina. The 'Zags haven't lost in the second round since 2010.
-- Gonzaga's 38-point win over the Knights was their largest in terms of margin of victory at the NCAAs in school history. The Bulldogs beat Baylor in the last meeting between the schools back in 2012, winning 94-87.
-- Gonzaga came in at 9/2 to win the NCAA Tournament per Westgate when the tournament began, which came in just behind Duke (9/4) as far as favorites go. Baylor was 1,000-to-1.
-- The 'over' is on a 5-2 run in Baylor games but is just 1-3 in Gonzaga's last four games.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA