In their third straight Elite Eight appearance, the Florida Gators can exercise some demons by making their first Final Four since 2007.
To book their trip to Atlanta, the Gators will have to stop the Michigan Wolverines' magical run at Cowboys Stadium.
The Wolverines young lineup will be hungry to send the Gators home early. However, Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Patric Young have been stopped at this point too many times before to go away quietly.
Those three upperclassmen, along with senior Mike Rosario, will need to manufacture baskets in the final minutes to avoid another regional final collapse. To make matters worse, the Gators have not thrived in close games this season, per The Gainesville Sun's Kevin Brockway:
Kevin Brockway @gatorhoops
@Fitzbitz if it's close, it would be bad news for Gators. Florida 0-6 in games decided by 6 or less.3/27/2013, 9:02:16 PM
The Gators' best performance will be paramount to advance. Scroll down for how Billy Donovan's team can do just that.
Defending the Trey Burke-Mitch McGary Two-Man Game
The chemistry between Burke and McGary has been at an all-season high during this tournament run, as the Michigan point guard has turned the extra attention on his movements into production from his big man.
Burke has transformed into a distributor in the postseason, finding his shot when the defense gives him the opportunity. That, in turn, has made his team even more efficient offensively.
McGary, in particular, has come into his own this tournament, getting optimal interior position in both a one-on-one matchup with Jeff Withey and a ferocious team defense like the VCU press. In those last two Michigan wins, McGary has shot over 70 percent from the field and hauled in 14 rebounds.
Stopping this two-man attack will fall on Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Young. It may be the toughest pick-and-roll they’ve faced all year.
Attacking with Transition Offense
While Florida will ultimately live and die by the three-pointer, it can’t rely on the jump shot alone. Michigan’s biggest weakness is its interior defense, and the Gators will need to find ways to get easy buckets inside.
The Gators don’t attack the paint in their half-court offense unless absolutely necessary, so it’s paramount for Wilbekin, Rosario and Boynton to push the tempo and hit Michigan where it hurts. Boynton, in particular, is a handful in the open court with the ability to penetrate and score at will.
The Gators' man in the middle could swing this entire game in Florida’s favor. That’s how important his play hinges on the Gators’ Final Four hopes.
With his enormous wingspan and athletic frame, Young has the potential to render Michigan’s penetration into useless offense. Mitch McGary will try to keep Young out of the paint, much like he accomplished against Kansas’ Jeff Withey, but Young possesses the defensive acumen to keep him a non-factor.
In addition, with Michigan’s interior being a weakness, Young will have to play big and utilize his jump hook early and often.
Young can make the leap and send his team to Atlanta. The ball is in his court now.
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Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow his March Madness coverage on Twitter.
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