The Opponent: Florida
Record: 29-7 (14-4 SEC)
Head Coach: Billy Donovan (17th season, 415-165)
Seed: No. 3, South Region
All-time Series: Series is tied at 1-1
Time and Television: March 31, 2:20 p.m., CBS
Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke was just two years old the last time the Wolverines made an appearance in the Elite Eight. Now, after a memorable finish in a classic 87-85 Sweet 16 overtime victory over Kansas, Burke and Co. possess the opportunity to cement a place in U-M basketball lore against a pugnacious Florida squad that has already extinguished the tournament's darling flame.
The SEC tournament runner-ups quelled an early onslaught by No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast and punished the upstart Eagles 62-50 to set up the matchup with the Wolverines.
The Goliath Gators' conquest over its diminutive in-state foe was just another in a long line of successful March endeavors for UF, which is 19-3 in tournament play since 2006. Billy Donovan's squad captured the national title in both 2006 and 2007, but has been ousted in the regional final in each of the last two seasons.
Returning to the Final Four will largely depend on Florida's ability to contain Burke and curtail the recent emergence of budding freshman big man Mitch McGary. The Gators led the SEC during the regular season defensively, allowing just 53.7 points per game, and also paced the conference in defensive field goal percentage (37.9 percent) and defensive rebounds (30.1 per game).
UF was among the nation's most efficient offensive teams this year. It led the SEC in field goal percentage (48.0 percent), three-point field goal percentage (38.0 percent) and scoring margin (+18.1). In tournament play, Florida is outscoring opponents 73.0-53.7.
Senior guard Mike Rosario is the go-to guy for the Gators' offense, and is averaging 16.0 points per game in tournament play, but the squad relies on a cacophony of balanced and talented scoring threats.
Senior forward Erik Murphy (12.6 points per game, 5.5 rebounds), senior guard Kenny Boynton (12.0 points per game, 2.8 assists), and junior center Patric Young (10.2 points per game, 6.3 rebounds) also averaged double-digits point totals during the regular season. Junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin thrives in his role as facilitator of the skilled bunch, and is averaging 9.3 points and 4.9 assists per game against 2.1 turnovers. Six different Gators have led the squad in scoring at some point this season.
The experience of Donovan's group, which features three seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup, could provide problems against a Michigan squad that is among the youngest in the country. Still, Florida has struggled mightily in close contests this year, posting a 0-6 record in games decided by six points or less, which could cause issues against a battle-tested U-M side.
The Wolverines will appear in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1994 … U-M is 1-1 all-time against Florida, but lost its last meeting 79-63 at the Orange Bowl Classic Dec. 27 1988 … Michigan conquered the Gators 108-85 in the second round of the 1988 NCAA Tournament … U-M head coach John Beilein is 1-1 all-time against UF, and is 1-2 against Billy Donovan … Point guard Trey Burke surpassed the 400-career assist plateau with his 10 helpers against Kansas … Burke's 20-point, 10-assist outing against the Jayhawks was the first-such performance in the Sweet 16 since Billy Donovan accomplished a similar feat against Alabama in 1987.
From the Other Sidelines:
Pat Dooley - The Gainesville Sun: "The sports information director working at the NCAA Tournament started to give Erik Murphy instructions on how to handle the break-out room, the area set aside in the bowels of Cowboys Stadium for extensive interviews when teams reach the Elite Eight.
"Murphy waved him off.
"He knew exactly what to do, how to handle this situation.
"This is hardly the first rodeo for these cowboys.
"Florida is playing in its third straight Elite Eight and is the only school that has played in the past three. This is old hat, especially for the seniors."