Michigan returns to first Final Four since 1993

Published on Monday, 4/1/13, at 11:02 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

ARLINGTON, Texas — When Jalen Rose wrapped his arm around the neck of former Michigan head coach Steve Fisher as the duo left the court at the Superdome in New Orleans following the 1993 national-title game, he told his coach, “We’ll be back.”

Rose’s wishes didn’t come true following that gut-wrenching loss to North Carolina.

However, on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium, Michigan qualified for the Final Four for the first time in 20 years by blasting Florida 79-59 in the South Region finals. The Wolverines won in blowout fashion as three-point underdogs, supplying money-line supporters with a +125 payout (risk $100 to win $125).

Less than 48 hours after pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history to beat Kansas in overtime, John Beilein’s team came out blazing against the Gators. Michigan scored the first 13 points of the game before UF knew what hit it.

The Wolverines would extend the lead to 23-5 and 41-17. They led 47-30 at intermission against a UF squad that was giving up only 53 points per game.

Billy Donovan’s team scored the first six points of the second half to slice the deficit to 11, but that would be as close as it would get. After Michigan scored a bucket to go up 14 a few minutes later, UF’s Will Yeguete got lazy on an inbounds pass that Spike Albrecht intercepted and converted into a quick layup.

And just like that, it was game, set, match, region!

Nik Stauskas couldn’t miss in November and December, but his 3-point accuracy had been on vacation for the most part since then. Not so against the Gators as Stauskas drained all six of his attempts from 3-point range.

Trey Burke finished with 15 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals with only one turnover. Mitch McGary has been a monster throughout the tournament and he had 11 points, nine boards, five steals and a pair of blocked shots versus UF.

Florida was playing in its fifth Elite Eight in the last eight years, but it came up short of the Final Four by just one game for a third consecutive campaign. Senior power forward Erik Murphy, who enjoyed a solid career and outstanding season, went 0-for-11 from the field and was held scoreless.

Murphy, Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton are out of eligibility, while junior center Patric Young will determine whether he will return to school or not in the coming weeks. Young is currently projected as a mid-second round pick in most 2013 mock drafts.

But Florida will be back and will continue to be a perennial Top-10 team as long as Donovan remains in Gainesville. The Gators return Scottie Wilbekin, Michael Frazier II, Yeguete, Casey Prather and possibly Young. Also, transfers Dorian Finney-Smith (Va. Tech) and Damontre Harris (South Carolina) will be wearing orange and blue after sitting out this season.

Perhaps most important, the Gators add a pair of five-star recruits in point guard Kasey Hill from out of the Orlando area and Holmes County High School product Chris Walker, a long and lean shot blocker who led his team to a state title a few weeks ago.

Michigan has been installed as a two-point favorite for Saturday’s national semifinals matchup versus Syracuse. The total is 131.

In the other semifinal, Louisville is favored by 10.5 vs. Wichita St. The total is in the 131-132 range, while the Shockers are +500 on the money line (risk $100 to win $500).

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