Trey Burke grew up in the shadow of another Big 10 university. Mitch McGary was more of a baseball fan as a kid, and still dreams of a World Series for the Chicago Cubs.
They are now part of the next generation of fabulous young Michigan Wolverines going to the Final 4, the first for Michigan since the Fab Five 20 years gone, after a dominating performance Sunday in the South Regional final.
Michigan Wolverines scored the game’s first 13 points and let by double figures the rest of the way in a 79-59 rout of Florida Gators, the Southeastern Conference regular-season champion with a senior-filled list and playing its 3rd consecutive regional final.
”I’m sure the Fab 5 is proud with us. We still have some work to do. We’re not done,” said McGary, who scored 8 points and had 6 rebounds in that opening spurt and is one of 3 freshman starters.
That fast start was much different than a couple of days earlier against top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, when the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (30-7) had to wipe out a 14-point delinquency in the final 7 minutes. They forced overtime on Burke’s long 3-pointer just to get to their first regional final in 19 years.
”We felt today the key was to come out and throw the first punch,” recounted Burke, the sophomore from Columbus, Ohio, where he cheered for Buckeyes football and Duke basketball.
Florida (29-8) was quickly staggering and never recovered, ending another season one victory shy of the Final Four. Coach Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators haven’t been there since winning consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007.
”We’ve almost become numb to it now. Been here before,” Gators junior center Patric Young said. ”I just really wish we were out there cutting the nets down.” Football lines
Nik Stauskas scored 22 points while making all 6 of his 3-point attempts for Michigan. Burke, the South Region’s most major player and Big 10 player of the year as a sophomore, scored 15 points even while dealing with some spasms in his higher back. McGary finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Michigan hadn’t reached the Final 4 since consecutive national championship game appearances in 1992 and 1993, the freshman and sophomore seasons of the Fab Five: Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.
Webber was gone before that team’s 1994 regional final loss to Arkansas played in the now-demolished Reunion Arena in Dallas, with Rose and Howard following him to the NBA after that.
With 4 wins in this NCAA tourney, the Wolverines already have more tournament victories than their combined 3 from the end of the Fab Five era to this season. After winning a 1st-round game in 1998, they didn’t even make the field again until 2009.
Now they’re back in the Final Four with another young group.
”It’s crazy. Coming into this, I knew we might be a great team, I knew we could do some things,” said Glenn Robinson III, another one of the starting freshmen. ”But I never knew it would lead to all this.”