Football may come first at Michigan (31-7), but the Wolverines haven’t exactly been pushovers on the hardwood.
They won a national title in 1989, beating Seton Hall in overtime, and they’ve lost three other times in the championship. The school is best known for the Fab Five, that group of five stellar recruits who led Michigan to back-to-back final appearances in 1992 and ‘93.
This team is cut from the same mold, with three freshmen starters and two other first-year players who made big contributions in a semifinal victory over Syracuse.
“The Fab Five was a great team. I mean, a really great team,” said freshman guard Caris LeVert, who came off the bench to score eight points against the Orange. “They did some great things for our school.”
But these guys can do something the Fab Five never did — win it all.
“Just making it to the Final Four, we are going to hang up a banner in the Crisler Center,” said another freshman, Glenn Robinson III. “But we aren’t done. Having the chance to hang another one up for a national championship ... is all kind of surreal to us.”
Both teams got to this point with crucial assists from the backups.
LeVert and Spike Albrecht — yep, another freshman — both hit a pair of 3-pointers in Michigan’s semifinal win, points that were desperately needed with player of the year Trey Burke struggling through a brutal night. The sophomore guard made only 1-of-8 shots and finished with seven points, just the second time this season he’s been held in single digits.
Burke said he’ll gladly hand off the scoring duties to someone else again Monday if the Cardinals take a similar approach to Syracuse.
“Pretty much every time I got the ball, I had two people in my face,” he said. “I tried not to force anything, but I probably forced two or three shots. That 3 I hit (from way out and his only basket of the game) wasn’t a good shot. But I try not to force things and just look for different ways to find the open man.”