#3 Florida Battles #4 Michigan for Final Four Spot

With two spots filled for the April 6 Final Four, top spots remain and one will come from the #3 Florida vs. #4 Michigan matchup.

For the Wolverines, it’s been 19 years since the team’s last regional final. Their star sophomore guard Trey Burke was only 16-months-old at the time.

Michigan guard Trey Burke

Michigan guard Trey Burke

On Friday, Burke again stole the show in the team’s 87-85 overtime win over #1 Kansas. He scored 23 points after the halftime break, steering his team from a 14-point deficit. With 4.2 seconds remaining in regulation, Burke hit a 3-pointer for the tie.

Also the Big Ten player of the year, he had 10 assists on Friday, giving him the distinction of the first player in the Sweet 16 since 1987 to have 20 points with 10 assists. Ironically this last came from “Billy The Kid” a Providence player named Billy Donovan. Today is he known as Florida’s head basketball coach.

Burke has a strong, young supporting cast as three of his starting teammates are freshman. There’s forward Mitch McGary. He’s been on fire during the Big Dance as he’s averaged 19.3 points with 12.3 rebounds in the team’s three games.

Next up is also the son of another NBA legend, forward Glenn Robinson III and guard Nik Stauskas.

Junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is the elder statesmen of the team’s starting five. And yes, he’s from that Hardaway family, former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway.

But for this young team, their eye has been on the prize since the season’s start.

Burke recently said via The Associated Press, “A lot of people doubted us, a lot of people thought we were too young, not tough enough. And I think we’ve proved people wrong over the last couple of weeks,” Burke said. “I think we understood we have what it takes to be a young team that can go far in this tournament. … Being young isn’t an excuse.”

Just as Michigan has a young team leading them, Florida has experience on their side. Sunday’s game represents their third straight regional final. Last year they lost to Louisville and in 2011 it was an overtime loss to Butler.

Donovan won’t let the last straight two years of so close yet so far games haunt his team for Sunday’s matchup. He said via The Associated Press, “I’m not sure what we take from those situations that could really help us get prepared for Michigan. I think this game stands on itself. It’s got its own separate identity as itself. It’s in the moment. It’s now, it’s here, it’s present.”

Florida's Erik Murphy

Florida’s Erik Murphy

Florida also has two consecutive titles wins: 2006 and 2007 which could make them hungrier to get it done, especially for its senior players Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy. This is their last opportunity.

For Murphy, he will matched up against Burke, which should be interesting. He likes to score away from the basket as 46 percent of his points come from 3-pointers. Murphy is the team’s leading scorer with 12.6 average points and for the tournament, he is 18 to 1 to be its most outstanding player.

The Gators are also strong defensively as they’ve held four of their opponents to 40 points or less. In 14 games, they only allowed them 50 points or less. Against FGCU, Florida had forced them to commit 20 turnovers. But Michigan is not FGCU and in their game against Kansas, Michigan shot 49.3%. They should be able to hold their own against Florida.

Historically in the teams’ two meetings, it’s 1-1 and 1-0 with Donovan at the helm.

As a #3 seed, there is -300 no vs. +200 yes to win the tournament and on Sunday, the Gators have a slight advantage for the win (-3, 132 o/u).

 

 

 

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