South final: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 3 Florida: Channeling Fab Five

Burke hopes to take Wolverines to first Final Four since 1993
2013-03-31T00:00:00Z South final: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 3 Florida: Channeling Fab FiveThe Associated Press The Associated Press
March 31, 2013 12:00 am  • 

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 today.

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 three-pointer with 4.2 seconds left in regulation and won 87-85 in overtime.

"Yeah, I was surprised at how far I was," Burke said after seeing 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 1987. 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.

"It's funny, my wife says to me this morning, she asked me the same question, she said, 'Who was the player?'," said Donovan, admitting that he already knew and remembered his numbers (26 points, 10 assists vs. Alabama). "And I said Magic Johnson. And she said, 'No, you.' I said I'm glad I'm comparing myself to Magic Johnson, that's great."

Florida has been to this point each of the last two years, but the Gators 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.

After falling behind 15-4 early against Florida Gulf Coast, the Gators recovered with a 16-0 run late in the first half to go ahead to stay in a 62-50 victory.

While Florida is loaded with seniors and 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.

Michigan hasn't been to the Final Four since national title game appearances in 1992 and 1993 by the Fab Five - Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King - as freshmen and sophomores.

This is the most successful Michigan season since then, though there is no sense of satisfaction yet.

"You're not the team until you're the team. And the only way you can be the team is that you win that championship," said Michigan coach John Beilein.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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