The outcome of the South Region final between 3-seed Florida and 4-seed Michigan was decided in the game’s first four minutes.
John Beilein’s Wolverines scored the first 13 points of the game and led by as many as 24 points in the first half on their way to a 79-59 victory at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., resulting in the program’s first Final Four since 1993.
This will be Beilein’s first Final Four appearance, as his 2005 West Virginia team fell in the Elite Eight.
The catalyst in the first 20 minutes was freshman guard Nik Stauskas, who made just two of his 12 three-point attempts in Michigan’s first three NCAA tournament games. Against Florida, who in the first half defended the Canadian as if they assumed his cold stretch would continue, Stauskas hit his first seven shots from the field (six from beyond the arc) on the way to scoring a game-high 22 points.
Fellow freshman Mitch McGary continued his good play in the NCAA tournament, scoring 11 points, grabbing nine rebounds and outplaying Florida junior Patric Young (eight points, seven rebounds) for much of the contest.
Trey Burke, who apparently has been battling a bug of sorts this weekend, didn’t shot well from the field (5-of-16) but he did dish out seven assists with just one turnover. As a team the Wolverines shot 10-of-19 from beyond the arc and 46.2% overall, proving to be too much for the Gator defense.
Next up for the Wolverines is East Region champion Syracuse, which will offer up the enticing matchup of Jim Boeheim’s famed 2-3 zone and John Beilein’s offensive attack that doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters.
One player the Wolverines will need to get untracked next weekend is junior Tim Hardaway Jr., who shot just 3-of-13 and scored nine points against Florida. But they entered Sunday with a similar concern regarding Stauskas, and we see what happened there.
There’s no doubt that Trey Burke is one of the nation’s best players but his teammates are stepping up at the right time. Two more wins? There’s no doubt that Michigan is capable of winning two in Atlanta.