ARLINGTON, Texas — Michigan coach John Beilein briefly lost track of how long it’s been since the Wolverines reached the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.
Sixteen years, he said. No, 18. Wait. 19.
He was right the third time, but here’s how to make it a little simpler. The Fab Five era of the early 1990s was the last time the No. 4 seed Wolverines (28-7) made it this far.
For top-seeded Kansas (31-5) — their opponent in the South Regional semifinals Friday night — Fab Five means something more like five trips at least this far in the past six NCAA tournaments, not to mention a championship in 2008 and another appearance in the title game last year.
The way Beilein figures it, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. were the only players in his rotation who had any NCAA experience last week, and the Wolverines won twice anyway for the first time since Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard led the way a year after Chris Webber broke up the original class of freshmen by leaving for the NBA.
“It was all new to them then,” Beilein said of the early rounds in suburban Detroit. “And the next step is new to all our guys. I didn’t see our kids affected by that. I think we’re more affected by the opponent right now than how long it’s been or where it’s at.”
Now that Beilein mentions it, the site is noteworthy as well. Cowboys Stadium is about 15 miles from now-demolished Reunion Arena in downtown Dallas, where Howard, Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King played their last game together in a loss to Arkansas in the regional finals. When Webber was still with them, those five lost in back-to-back championship games in 1992-93.
“I actually talked to Jimmy King on Monday,” said freshman Mitch McGary, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the win over Virginia Commonwealth that sent the Wolverines to Texas. “He came in and spoke in one of our classes. He knows what to experience from it. And it’s the same game of basketball. He just said go have fun and play your game.”