No. 2 Michigan Rolls to 64-49 Win over No. 10 Florida; Advances to Sweet 16

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2019

Michigan forward Isaiah Livers, left, celebrates with teammate Jordan Poole after making a basket during a second round men's college basketball game against Florida in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Defense, defense, defense. If the Michigan Wolverines continue to advance at the NCAA men's basketball tournament, it will be on the back of their defense.

Just ask the Florida Gators. Michigan smothered Florida on Saturday in second-round play in the West Region, holding the Gators to 34.5 percent shooting from the field in a 64-49 win. Michigan is now off to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season.

While the Wolverines locked down on defense, Jordan Poole led the offense with 19 points on 4-of-9 shooting from three. Florida's regular-season leading scorer, KeVaughn Allen, was held in check, scoring just eight points.

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

4. Point. Play. 💦 Jordan Poole gets the tough triple to fall plus the foul to extend Michigan's lead! #MarchMadness | @umichbball https://t.co/l6ZK5Hurm3

Zavier Simpson was also excellent in the win, just missing out on a triple-double with nine points, nine boards and nine assists, while Jon Teske added eight points and 10 rebounds and Isaiah Livers chipped in with 10 points off the bench.

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

ISAIAH LIVERS WITH AUTHORITY! 😤 #MarchMadness | @umichbball https://t.co/sv3c5bOCsI

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

"Right now we're going to embrace this win. Hopefully, we can advance to the Elite 8." Zavier Simpson is ready for the next round of #MarchMadness after his near triple-double and @umichbball win! https://t.co/P02Uut94rf

It was a team effort for the Wolverines, who have given up on average just 52 points in their first two tournament games. Their defense continues to be suffocating.

Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops

Love the point about @ClarkKelloggCBS that Michigan plays "saran wrap" defense but Florida only attempted two free throws. That's how you get Capone.

Scott Hanson @ScottHanson

Michigan’s defense is special. All 5 positions. If their 3-pt shooting is even reasonably good — look out. And Simpson... so so solid.

But the Wolverines are only going to go as far as Poole can take them. Michigan isn't a good offensive team, and for stretches against Florida on Saturday, the points didn't come easily.

If Poole is cooking, though, the Wolverines will be an extremely tough out.

Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein

One year to the day after he became a March Madness legend with a buzzer beater against Houston, Jordan Poole wills Michigan to the Sweet 16 over Florida. Business as usual in Ann Arbor. Back to Southern California.

Jay Williams @RealJayWilliams

. @umichbball straight balled out today. Respect. Jordan Poole needs to play that way all day every day & this team could be different.

And Michigan will get to have more scenes like this, too:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

This is what #MarchMadness is all about! 🎉 https://t.co/eAoQceEnxW

Getting consistent scoring from Ignas Brazdeikis—who was the team's leading scorer this season but posted just five points on 2-of-8 shooting against Florida—is also vital for the Wolverines. Poole can be streaky, and if neither he nor Brazdeikis are hitting shots, Michigan's offense often grinds to a halt.

In the regular season, the defense overcame any offensive woes more often than not. But with the competition now stiffening in the Sweet 16, Michigan's margin for error is shrinking.

On Saturday night, however, the Wolverines showed just how dominant they could be, squeezing the life out of Florida's offense. Poole and Co. have an elite ceiling. The question is how they'll fare against elite teams if the offense doesn't show up.

Up next for Michigan is a matchup against either third-seeded Texas Tech or sixth-seeded Buffalo on Thursday.