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ARLINGTON, Texas — Men’s basketball at the University of Michigan is officially prominent again.
With Sunday’s 79-59 win over Florida, the Wolverines put themselves back in a position that they haven’t seen since the likes of grunge music, the last episodes of the hit sitcom Cheers, and black socks ubiquitously paired with basketball shoes.
After Sunday’s Elite Eight win at Cowboys Stadium, Michigan forward Jon Horford summed up the moment — and the renaissance of Michigan basketball — in one statement.
“It’s beautiful, man,” Horford said. “It’s beautiful.”
The Wolverines (30-7) will face Syracuse (30-9) at 8:49 p.m. on Saturday in the second game of the Final Four at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the first national semifinal appearance for the Wolverines in 20 years.
“That’s why I came here,” Michigan forward Mitch McGary said. “I came here to win. Trey [Burke] has done a tremendous job, Tim [Hardaway, Jr.] and all the captains of the team have done a tremendous job of bringing us closer together as a family, and that’s the only reason why we’ve gotten this far, because we have such a tight bond.
“But to get back on that podium, back to where Michigan is a top-five team, is great for us and great for the university, to show that we’re going to be there, and we’re going to be one of the toughest teams you play all year, and we’re just going to fight.”
The 20-year-period between Final Four appearances for the Wolverines wasn’t without struggles — and controversy.
After falling in the national championship game in 1992 and 1993 and losing to eventual national champion Arkansas in a 1994 regional title game, the Wolverines qualified for the NCAA tournament only three more times in the 1990s, getting only as far as the second round.
Then, the NCAA levied sanctions against the Wolverines in 2003, the result of a six-year investigation that uncovered financial improprieties between the men’s basketball team and a booster. As a result, the NCAA placed Michigan on probation, and in addition to self-imposed penalties, Michigan ultimately vacated its 1992 and 1993 Final Four appearances.
“I’ve heard a lot about the times before we got here,” Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III said. “I feel really blessed and really spoiled, but at the same time, we put in a lot of hard work. I know we’ve only been here nine, 10 months, but we’ve put in a lot of work and a lot of time. I think that we deserve this.”
Michigan has reached the NCAA tournament four times in John Beilein’s six seasons as coach and now prepares for its biggest step of the program since the days of the Fab Five.
“It means the world,” Hardaway, Jr., said. “Twenty years have passed, and we haven’t been on the stage yet.”
BURKE NAMED ALL-AMERICAN: Michigan point guard Trey Burke was named Monday as a first-team Associated Press All-American.
Burke is one of five players on the first team and is Michigan’s first first-team All-American selection since Chris Webber in 1993. Burke, a sophomore from Columbus, has averaged 19.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and has a 3-point shooting percentage of 401. Burke received 62 first-team votes and 319 points.
Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas was a third-team All-American selection, while Aaron Craft was an honorable mention selection.
GETTING PAID: USA Today last week reported on the bonuses that each of the Sweet Sixteen coaches will receive. Beilein earned a bonus of $25,000 for Michigan making the NCAA tournament and earns an additional $25,000 for each win Michigan earns in the tournament, which brings his sum up to $100,000 after Sunday’s win over Florida.
USA Today reported last year that Beilein is the nation’s 12th-highest paid Division I coach, earning $2.2 million annually.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.