No. 1 Michigan Favored in Elite Eight Showdown Against No. 11 UCLA

GreatLakesStakes.com

By Bryce Derouin

Michigan is rolling, and the Wolverines appeared poised for another Final Four berth.

Michigan steamrolled Florida State 76-58 on Sunday to move into Tuesday’s Elite Eight matchup against UCLA. Sportsbooks see the Wolverines advancing, setting Michigan as -7.5-point favorites for the 9:57 p.m. contest. The total is set at 136 as of Monday afternoon, while Michigan's moneyline is at -310. UCLA is +250 on the moneyline.

“One game at a time,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said during Sunday’s postgame press conference. “We can celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we're looking forward to and preparing for our next opponent.”

UCLA earned its Elite Eight spot after defeating Alabama in overtime, 88-78, on Sunday.

Michigan needed no such late-game drama to advance. The Wolverines dominated inside to take a 32-21 halftime lead before cruising to the 18-point victory. Tuesday will mark the program’s fourth Elite Eight appearance since 2013.

“Michigan has had a lot of success in the basketball program,” Howard said. “It's just beautiful to see that all the hard work is paying off this year.”

This is the first NCAA Tournament where residents in Michigan can back the Wolverines through retail or online sports betting. The state introduced sports betting in March 2020 before the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Jan. 22, 2021, Michigan officially launched its mobile sports betting and online casino platforms, giving residents more access to wager on sports.

Michigan dominates FSU inside

Much was made about the Wolverines facing the size of Florida State. The Seminoles have the tallest team in the country with an average height of 79.6 inches. But none of that seemed to matter with the way Michigan attacked the rim. The Wolverines held a 50-28 advantage in points in the paint and scored the first 30 of their second-half points from around the rim to blow the game open.

“We did a really good job of preparing for it,” Howard said of Florida State’s size. “Yes, you cannot duplicate it in practice because you just don't have that Florida State roster. But it was great to know, as far as our guys buying in, and as the guys I'm speaking of, our scout team watching film and studying Florida State's offense and the players' strengths.”

Hunter Dickinson and Brandon Johns Jr. each scored 14 points to lead the Wolverines, while Franz Wagner continues to increase his draft stock after a 13-point, 10-rebound outing against the Seminoles.

Michigan utilized a 10-0 run midway through the first half to take a 19-8 lead on Florida State. The Wolverines never trailed again in the contest.

“We basically knew how they were going to play us all game with fronting the post and switching everything,” Wagner said. “We knew what to expect and did that in practice. And I think we did a really good job of not allowing them to speed us up.”

UCLA coming on at right time

UCLA was not one of the favorites to make it to the Elite Eight. To end the season, the Bruins had lost four straight and were relegated to a First Four matchup against Michigan State. The Bruins had to rally from a 77-72 deficit with 1:29 left to force overtime and eventually beat the Spartans 86-80 in overtime.

But UCLA’s most impressive win came on Sunday when it topped the SEC regular-season and tournament champions, Alabama. UCLA limited Alabama’s vaunted 3-point attack to just 7 of 28 shooting from beyond the arc. The Tide needed a 35-foot desperation shot from Alex Reese just to force overtime before the Bruins jumped out to a 7-0 run to take control in the extra session.

“I would say that the Michigan State win was a big turning point,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said to reporters after Sunday’s game. “For them to come that far to where they could beat a program like Michigan State, I think it just did wonders for their confidence.

“Right now, I can't wait to get back and start watching Michigan because I understand how great of a team they have. I'm well aware of how fragile this tournament is, and an opportunity doesn't always knock at your door.”

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WRITTEN BY
GreatLakesStakes.com
Bryce Derouin
Bryce joined GreatLakesStakes.com after spending the last nine years covering high school and college sports throughout Michigan. He’s served as the primary Division II beat writer for Grand Valley State and Michigan Tech. Along with his newspaper background, he's worked in marketing and has experience covering casinos and gambling.
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Bryce joined GreatLakesStakes.com after spending the last nine years covering high school and college sports throughout Michigan. He’s served as the primary Division II beat writer for Grand Valley State and Michigan Tech. Along with his newspaper background, he's worked in marketing and has experience covering casinos and gambling.
... Read More