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Michigan is in its first regional final in 19 years, while Florida is making its third straight trip.
Michigan's Nik Stauskas (11), Trey Burke (3) and Corey Person celebrate after beating Kansas 87-85 in overtime of a regional semifinal Friday in Arlington, Texas.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas — Trey Burke was a 16-month-old toddler the last time Michigan was still playing this late in the NCAA tournament.
That regional final 19 years ago, a loss that ended the Fab Five era, was played in a building that no longer exists. Where Reunion Arena once stood near downtown Dallas is now a vacant lot about 20 minutes from where the Wolverines finally get another chance to get back to the Final Four.
“It’s definitely crazy,” Burke said Saturday. “Just to get this program moving back in the right direction means a lot to us.”
No. 4 seed Michigan (29-7) plays SEC regular-season champion and No. 3 seed Florida (29-7) for the South Regional title on the raised court at ultramodern Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.
The Wolverines advanced largely because of Burke, the sophomore and Big Ten player of the year who scored 23 points — all after halftime — as they overcame a 14-point deficit against top seed Kansas. They forced overtime when Burke hit a long game-tying 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left in regulation and won 87-85 in overtime.
“Yeah, I was surprised at how far I was,” Burke admitted after seeing multiple replays of the shot that may just become known as the Fab 3.
Burke also had 10 assists, making him the first player to have 20 points and 10 assists in the NCAA round of 16 since 1997. The last to do it? A Providence player known as “Billy The Kid” — aka Florida coach Billy Donovan, who will be on the opposite bench when his Gators play in their third consecutive regional final.
Florida has been to this point each of the last two years, but they haven’t been further since winning consecutive national championships under Donovan in 2006 and 2007.
In both of those regional final losses — to Louisville last year and in overtime to Butler in 2011 — the Gators had 11-point leads in the second half. This is now the last chance for fourth-year Florida seniors Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy to get a title of their own.
“Game to game, it’s a different feeling,” Boynton said. “You think about it before the game. Once the game starts, you try to do everything in your control individually and as a team to change the outcome. Up to this point, our team does a great job preparing the right way.”
After falling behind 15-4 early against Florida Gulf Coast, the high-flying No. 15 seed everybody knows now after an unprecedented run to the NCAA round of 16, the Gators recovered with a 16-0 run late in the first half to go ahead for good in a 62-50 victory.
While Florida is loaded with seniors and NCAA tournament experience, the Wolverines have three freshmen in their starting lineup. Junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr., one of three sons of former NBA players on Michigan’s roster, is the only starter older than Burke.
All that youth never kept them from starting the season with the goal of competing for a national championship.”
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