National Columnist

Florida deserved to lose

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michigan won this game because Michigan deserved to win. Nik Stauskas set an NCAA regional record by making all six of his 3-pointers. Mitch McGary was dominant down low. Trey Burke was the best player on the floor.

But Florida lost because Florida deserved to lose. That's not always the case, you understand. Sometimes a game happens, a great game, and somebody loses because somebody has to. But nobody deserved it.

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Florida deserved it.

You fall behind 13-0, you deserve it. You fail to find Nik Stauskas in the corner, his favorite spot on the floor, and you deserve it. Especially when Stauskas, a 43-percent shooter on 3-pointers, hits his first shot of the game from there. And his second. And third. Fourth. Fifth.

Behind me, a fan in a Michigan shirt couldn't believe his luck. Stauskas had just hit back-to-back 3-pointers -- his fourth and fifth of the half -- to give Michigan a 41-17 lead. And this fan was so grateful to Billy Donovan.

"He's a shooter," the fan yelled to nobody in particular. "Did someone scout us?"

Great question. You don't scout Michigan enough to figure that out, you deserve to lose and lose big, as Florida lost big Sunday, 79-59 in the South Region title game.

You fail to respect Michigan freshman Mitch McGary, averaging a double-double in this NCAA tournament, and you deserve it. The Gators were unprepared for McGary, I don't care what anyone says. Hell, I know what they were saying on Saturday, when the two Gators most likely to defend McGary didn't seem to know about, or in the case of Patric Young didn't seem to respect, McGary's late-season improvement.

"Not a dominant post scorer," Young said of McGary on Saturday, one day after McGary had dominated torched Kansas' dominant post defender, Jeff Withey, for 25 points in the Sweet 16.

Maybe McGary is, maybe not. But six minutes into the game, McGary had dominated torched Florida for eight points and five rebounds. Florida trailed by 14 and barely got closer than that the rest of the way because Stauskas was setting up in the corner and Florida was leaving him there.

Donovan said Stauskas was a figment of Trey Burke's imagination, saying Stauskas' record shooting day "all was a result of Trey Burke." Maybe that's why Florida didn't seem to know who Stauskas was, and I'm not exaggerating. After the game, senior Kenny Boynton kept calling him "the shooter," because he didn't know Stauskas' name.

"The shooter, I can't pronounce his name, we gave him open looks and he made us pay," Boynton said.

Can't pronounce his name? Didn't Donovan say it a hundred times beforehand? As in, "Don't leave Stauskas in the corner. Get out on Stauskas. If Stauskas hits two shots in a row, don't give him a third. If Stauskas hits four, don't give him a fifth. For God's sake, don't let Stauskas hit a sixth."

Guess not.

Donovan wasn't in the mood to credit Stauskas, but, man, was he in the mood to blame his players. Here are some of the things he said afterward:

"I think in the first half we missed 11 shots within three feet of the basket."

"I can't even imagine how many shots we had around the basket ... we just did not finish plays at all."

"I really wish we wouldn't have fouled there," referring to the last play of the half, when freshman Michael Frazier II fouled Stauskas during an off-balance 3-pointer.

"Erik [Murphy] had a very, very difficult game."

"I think Scottie [Wilbekin], even though he had seven assists, I thought he struggled at times offensively, just making some decisions and doing those things."

"[Mike] Rosario over-helped one time in a wrong position" on Stauskas.

So, like I said -- and like Donovan made clear, over and over -- Michigan didn't just win this game. Florida lost it.

Thing is, Donovan made beating Michigan sound so easy. He was saying it after a 20-point loss, not the best timing I've ever seen. But Donovan volunteered that Michigan is a "good defensive team, [but] I wouldn't say they're a great defensive team."

What's more, Donovan said, "That's not a great shot-blocking team."

And furthermore, he said, McGary "is not a guy you throw the ball to and post him up. Everything he gets is off Burke."

Everything everyone does for Michigan is off Burke, Donovan seems to think.

"Those guys," Donovan said of Michigan, "they don't have players that really are able to create for themselves."

Other than Burke, he meant. Whatever he was saying, and why ever he was saying it, I couldn't tell you. Michigan thoroughly outplayed his team, and Michigan thoroughly outcoached his team, although that's not a comment Donovan made. But he did make this comment, which summed up the attitude of wishful thinking displayed by his team for most of 40 minutes on Sunday:

"Listen," Donovan said. "Stauskas, if he goes 0 for 6 ... [it's] a different game."

Great point, Billy.

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