2023-24 Season

Game 12: Michigan vs. Florida Preview

Michigan and Florida face off in the opening game of this year’s Jumpman Invitational tonight (7:00 p.m., ESPN) in Charlotte. It’s a pivotal test for two programs eager for one final opportunity to shift the balance of their non-conference slate.

A loss for Florida or Michigan would cement their non-conference season as disappointing. Florida is 1-3 in its four most challenging games, with defeats to Baylor, Wake Forest, and Virginia. At the same time, Michigan has already racked up a pair of excellent road wins this season but has also suffered two disappointing home defeats.

A quality win on a neutral floor is precisely what both programs need, but only one will come away with a victory. Given both programs’ inconsistency this year, predicting what you’ll get from either group tonight is an arduous task.

The Gators

The Gators are in their second season under head coach Todd Golden. At 38 years old, Golden is one of the younger head coaches in college basketball and took the Florida job after leading San Francisco to a KenPom top-25 finish and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Golden is also an analytical favorite, with multiple appearances in HoopVision for playing starters with two first-half fouls or intentionally fouling in new situations.

Golden’s first season at Florida was underwhelming, finishing 74th on KenPom with a 16-17 record and a blowout first-round loss to UCF in the NIT. The Gators played a tough schedule but couldn’t get the job done against quality opponents, picking up only one quality victory (at home over Olivier Nkamhoua and Tennessee) all season.

This year’s group loses former U-M big man Colin Castleton but returns two promising wings and welcomes one of the most hyped transfer classes in the country. The transfer group — Walter Clayton (Iona), Zyon Pullin (UC Riverside), Tyrese Samuel (Seton Hall), and Micah Handlogten (Marshall) — features four key contributors.

The results have been acceptable but unspectacular. Florida is 7-3 and has handled business in all of the games it should win, boat raced Florida State at home, knocked off Pittsburgh in New York City, and lost to Virginia, Baylor, and Wake Forest at road or neutral venues. The result is a team ranked 38th on KenPom that should finish somewhere around .500 in the SEC and probably be a frequent topic in Bubble Watch columns come March.

Offensively, Florida is all about three things: pushing the pace, crashing the glass, and getting fouled.

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