When the last seconds ticked off for Michigan’s Elite Eight win over Florida, the Wolverines not only advanced to their first Final Four since the Fab Five, but also became the last Big Ten team standing.
Michigan was not widely considered to be a Final Four caliber team, much less a title contender, despite spending time as no. 1 in the country and having the best player in the country, Trey Burke. However, John Beilein did something different for their opening game against South Dakota State.
For just the second time all year, Mitch McGary, the freshman big man with an abundance of energy and plenty of potential, started. The dependable Jordan Morgan was cast off to the bench in favor of the often inconsistent McGary. Many were wondering why Beilein would dump his starting big from the whole season for a freshman who has not contributed a whole lot, and at such a strange time.
But boy, did Beilein’s move pay off. McGary has averaged 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds, while playing 30 minutes a game. He dominated Michigan’s games, giving them a huge offensive weapon in the paint.
With McGary’s new role and Burke being Burke, Michigan easily got through the first weekend, creating a match-up with No. 1 seed Kansas. Down double-digits in the final moments to the Jayhawks, Michigan seemed doomed. Their defense was horrid and Burke hadn’t scored a point in the first half, but was coming alive in the second half.
However, Burke and the Wolverines came roaring back. Burke hit the biggest shot of the tourney, a 30-foot 3-pointer to force the game to overtime, where Michigan would pull out the 87-85 win.
With swagger and momentum heading in to their Elite Eight date with Florida, Michigan drowned the Gators, winning by 20 points after a huge start. Stauskas remembered how to make threes, going 6-for-6 and Michigan was back in the Final Four.
They are the only Big Ten team in the Final Four, after six others fell in the tourney, including two losing in the Elite Eight.
After Indiana had beat Michigan at Crisler, barring Michigan from winning a share of the Big Ten, Hoosiers coach Tom Crean ran up to Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer, telling him he ruined programs. Well, after Michigan put themselves in to the Final Four, Hardaway proclaimed, “Indiana can’t talk trash now”.
Hardaway is correct — nobody can talk trash about Michigan anymore. They have silenced their critics and proclaimed their superiority in the Big Ten, with this tourney run to the Final Four.
Now that Michigan has grabbed Big Ten superiority, the final step is national superiority by means of a national championship.