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March 31, 2013

Fab 5 last Michigan region final, Florida 3 in row

ARLINGTON, Texas — Trey Burke was a 16-month-old toddler the last time Michigan was playing this late in the NCAA tournament.

That regional final 19 years ago, a loss that ended the Fab Five era, was played in a building that no longer exists. Where Reunion Arena once stood near downtown Dallas is now a vacant lot about 20 minutes from where the Wolverines finally get another chance to get back to the Final Four.

“It’s definitely crazy,” Burke said Saturday. “Just to get this program moving back in the right direction means a lot to us.”

No. 4 seed Michigan (29-7) plays SEC regular-season champion and No. 3 seed Florida (29-7) for the South Regional title on the raised court at ultramodern Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.

The Wolverines advanced largely because of Burke, the sophomore and Big Ten player of the year who scored 23 points — all after halftime — as they overcame a 14-point deficit against top seed Kansas. They forced overtime when Burke hit a long tying 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left in regulation and won 87-85 in overtime.

“Yeah, I was surprised at how far I was,” Burke admitted after seeing multiple replays of the shot that may just become known as the Fab 3.

Burke also had 10 assists, making him the first player to have 20 points and 10 assists in the NCAA round of 16 since 1987. The last to do it? A Providence player known as “Billy The Kid” — aka Florida coach Billy Donovan, who will be on the opposite bench when his Gators play in their third consecutive regional final.

“It’s funny, my wife says to me this morning, she asked me the same question, she said, ‘Who was the player?,”’ said Donovan, acknowledging he already knew and remembered his numbers (26 points, 10 assists vs. Alabama). “And I said ‘Magic Johnson.’ And she said, ‘No, you.’ I said I’m glad I’m comparing myself to Magic Johnson, that’s great.”

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