Michigan 58, Florida State 54, West Region Champions Comment Count

Ace March 25th, 2018 at 12:52 AM

Champions of the West. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]

Say it again, Dana Jacobson. Say it again and again, everyone.

Michigan is going to the Final Four. John Beilein, the true king of Ann Arbor, is one victory—against, of all teams, 11-seed Loyola—away from his second championship game in six years and an opportunity for the program's first national title since 1989.

The Wolverines got there in a most un-Beilein way. This was not Thursday, when they rained fire on Texas A&M. This is what many fans feared Thursday would look like, as a very large, athletic Florida State squad held Michigan well under a point per possession. Michigan, meanwhile, couldn't hit a three-pointer, going an appalling 4-for-22 from beyond the arc. Any past Beilein team would've lost this game.

But not this one. For as good as FSU's defense played, Michigan's was a cut above. The Seminoles had one more field goal (16) than turnovers committed (15). They kept a transition-reliant FSU scoreless on fast breaks; the Wolverines scored 12 in transition because of live-ball turnovers. That, above all, made the difference in a game featuring great halfcourt defense and ugly shooting.

"I've never seen a team work so hard and be so connected on both ends of the floor, even when things do not go right on the offensive end," said Beilein. "They were exceptional on defense. We had that string of plays where Moe was wide open, Charles is wide open, Duncan was wide open, and they didn't go down and sulk at the other end. They ended up just playing better defense so that we could win the game."

Charles Matthews surprised a lot of people tonight. [Barron]

Michigan's heroes weren't the ones you would've expected a month or two ago. Charles Matthews scored M's first points on an and-one dunk, flashed a rare smile, and proceeded to carry the offense through some truly ugly stretches. Using strong drives, sharp pivots, and tough finishes, Matthews finished with a game-high 17 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, a steal, and only one turnover.

"It was special," he said. "Last year all I used to hear in practice was turnover Matthews, turnover Matthews. And go see 212, that's when I have to run up to the top of the bleachers. But I stayed with it. Coach stayed on me. He continued to believe in me, and that continued to help my confidence grow. My teammates believe in me, and I believe in them. So it's just been a special feeling."

Zavier Simpson set the tone early, as well, when he ripped the ball away from FSU's Terance Mann as a parent would take a toy from an unruly child. While the stat line is packed—nine points on 4/8 shooting, three boards, five assists, one turnover, three steals—it doesn't do justice to Simpson's masterful control over the game. On a normal Michigan shooting night, Simpson threatens double-digit assists. Meanwhile, he hit a couple huge shots late and played his usual superlative defense. The two Seminole point guards, Trent Forrest and CJ Walker, combined to go 1-for-9 from the field with five turnovers.

Nobody else, though, could find any consistency on offense. Moe Wagner had an especially brutal outing, failing to hit a field goal in the first half before finishing with 11 points on 15 shot equivalents. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman needed ten shot equivalents to net his nine points. Duncan Robinson didn't make his first three-pointer until 2:25 remained, when his corner triple gave the Wolverines a seemingly insurmountable ten-point lead.

Florida State nearly surmounted it. Free throws, that familiar bugaboo, nearly cost Michigan dearly this time, as Simpson and MAAR went on a 2-for-5 stretch that included missing the front end of two one-and-ones to allow FSU to pull within a single possession twice. After Phil Cofer's putback got the 'Noles cut the margin to two, however, Robinson calmly sunk two free throws. PJ Savoy missed a wild, contested three-pointer with 13 seconds to play, Robinson grabbed the rebound, and for reasons unbeknownst to everyone other than Leonard Hamilton, Robinson was allowed to dribble out the clock.

"We knew they were going to make a run," said Abdur-Rahkman. "We each had to weather the storm and get stops when we needed it. And I think that's what we did."

Michigan is going to the Final Four—say it again—because they got stops. What a team. What a coaching staff. What a world.

[Hit THE JUMP for more photos and the box score.]

All photos by Patrick Barron.



March 25th, 2018 at 12:59 AM ^

Beilein's transition from a coach who produces offensive juggernauts that can occasionally make a tournament run to a coach with a top 3 (!!!!!!) defense in the country playing a bunch of spare parts is mind-blowing. And he's going to his second Final Four. This is better than I ever imagined he could do. 

This team isn't always pretty on the floor, but it plays so, so hard. Makes me proud to watch them play. 

An incredible run. 


March 26th, 2018 at 1:15 AM ^

a team to cut down on turnovers.  Seems pretty obvious but in addition to recruiting players that tend not to turn it over, and running an offense that doesn't ask you to take too many risks, the main answer is simply that you hold players accountable for turning it over.

If they turn it over in practice, they run (my high school coach did this, it's not groundbreaking by Beilein but I'm sure not all coaches do).  They turn it over in games, they sit.  Turnovers aren't usually a physical limitation that you can't control.  They're a mental thing.  Making risky passes, driving into multiple defenders, driving out of control, these are all things that low turnover coaches don't tolerate.  So as a player you either cut down on doing things that are more likely to result in turnovers or you don't play.


March 25th, 2018 at 1:05 AM ^

Maize and Blue.

Wasn't pretty, wasn't our best shooting nite. But O our Defense was pretty awesome.

Regional Champs. Go Blue. Proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Stringer Bell

March 25th, 2018 at 1:22 AM ^

Incredible run, and we have a great chance to finish it off.  Loyola is no pushover, but let's be honest, we should beat them.  Then, if we can get 1 more hot shooting night next Monday, we can cap off a truly special season.  This team deserves it.


March 25th, 2018 at 1:23 AM ^

...it wasn’t at all clear what this team would be. DJ Wilson left what could have been a hole at the four. And losing Walton and Irvin meant a lot of scoring and leadership would have to be replaced. Could Z become an on court leader after a disappointing freshman year? Was the Matthews hype real? Could Mo learn to rebound? Could Teske provide anything at all? All of those questions could have been answered in a bad way for Michigan, but none of them were.

Watching this team grow has already been among my favorite experiences as a Michigan fan. The coaching staff has done a truly remarkable job helping every single one of the players who see major minutes improve over the course of their careers and - in many cases - over the course of just the last few months. It’s been inspiring to watch.


March 25th, 2018 at 8:05 AM ^

Exactly right! It seems so long ago and like a different team.

As I have said a few times here, Coach Beilein is my favorite Michigan coach of all time win or lose.

Remember when there was concern about how long it took for him to fill the open assistant coach positions? Great selections!

Love this coaching staff and team. I am enjoying this run almost as much as 1989 when I was a student.


March 25th, 2018 at 1:27 AM ^

Such a great run! Smiling a lot, happy to be a Wolverine, proud of our team and our coach & coaches. Worried midseason if the team would come together and now... What a ride!