Saturday, March 30, 2013
© Copyright 2013
Gwinnett Daily Post
Michigan has reached the Elite Eight for the first time in 19 years while Florida is part of the festivities for the third straight season when the two squads meet in today's South Regional final at Arlington, Texas. The third-seeded Gators are attempting to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2007, when they won the second of back-to-back national championships. The fourth-seeded Wolverines are still alive because of an epic comeback to beat Kansas in overtime.
Michigan trailed by 10 points with less than three minutes left in regulation against the Jayhawks before Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke caught fire, scoring eight points in the final 75 seconds and forcing overtime with a 28-foot 3-pointer. "We love coaching him because he's got courage," Wolverines coach John Beilein said afterward. Florida ousted tournament favorite Florida Gulf Coast with strong defensive play that included 20 turnovers. The next task is ending the streak of two straight losses in regional title games. "It's so hard just a win a tournament game, never mind advance," Gators coach Billy Donovan said.
The Gators lack superstars and the rotation is only eight players deep, but anyone can emerge as the key player during any given contest. Senior guard Mike Rosario had 15 points against Florida Gulf Coast and is 10-of-19 from 3-point range during the tournament, while junior forward Casey Prather excelled off the bench with 11 points against the Eagles. "We wanted to come out and play with energy and help our team win," Prather said of Florida's strong bench contributions. "I think we did a great job of doing it. We made up our mind that we didn't want to leave." Rosario and senior forward Erik Murphy each average 12.6 points. Senior guard Kenny Boynton chips in 12 points per game, junior center Patric Young averages 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds and junior guard Scottie Wilbekin contributes 9.3 points and 4.9 assists.
Freshman forward Mitch McGary has emerged as a star in the NCAA Tournament by averaging 19.7 points and 12.3 rebounds. McGary scored a season-high 25 points and matched a season best with 14 rebounds against the Jayhawks in his fifth career start.
"Coach has done a tremendous job of just allowing me for this opportunity to just get this many minutes, and be in the starting lineup," McGary said afterward. "I'm honored to have it. He says if you play hard in practice, you're going to earn these minutes."
McGary's seasons averages are 7.3 points and a team-best 6.1 rebounds. Burke, a sophomore point guard, leads the Wolverines in scoring (18.9) and assists (6.8) and finished with 23 points and 10 assists against Kansas. Junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. averages 14.8 points.