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Saturday March 30, 2013Gators and Wolverines Ready for "Battle of Wills"

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trey Burke was the man of the hour Saturday afternoon.

Surrounded by a large horde of reporters in a curtained-off room here inside Cowboys Stadium, Burke recounted numerous times his 3-pointer in Michigan's 87-85 overtime win over Kansas on Friday night.

"It's definitely a shot that can be framed,'' Burke said.

The shot came with 4.2 seconds left in regulation and gave Burke 18 points after a scoreless first half. The sophomore guard scored five more points in overtime as Michigan overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to stun the Jayhawks and set up Sunday's Elite Eight showdown against the Gators.

While many of the questions focused on Burke's shot and Michigan's comeback, the topic soon turned to the future. In other words, the Gators and a potential berth in the Final Four.

Burke, considered a favorite to win National Player of the Year, had not watched film of Florida when he faced the media Saturday. That was to come later in the day.

Wolverines coach John Beilein had, though. He and his assistants gathered at 5:45 Saturday morning and spent three hours pouring over film of the Gators.

Burke will be matched up much of Sunday's game with Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin, one of the best on-ball defenders in college basketball.

A pick-and-roll specialist and catalyst of a Michigan offense that averages 75.4 points a game, Burke had heard enough from Beilein to know his job Sunday wouldn't be easy.

"Florida doesn't let you lose the screen,'' said Burke, who averages 18.9 points. "My job is to try and get Mitch [McGary] to see that early and change the screen, just to try and find ways to beat the big off the screen, try to find ways to get in the paint and get my guy on Mitch so I can get him the ball when it's a mismatch."

The South Region No. 4-seed Wolverines (29-7) survived the rough-and-tumble Big Ten Conference this season and are a win away from their first Final Four appearance since the days of the Fab Five in the early '90s.

To get there they must defeat the Gators, a team that matches up well with any of the teams that helped the Big Ten rank as the toughest conference in the country this season.

Tim Hardaway Jr., whose father is a scout for the Miami Heat and spent plenty of time on assignment at the O'Connell Center watching Florida play, expects the Gators to be a tough hurdle to clear.

"They are a smart team,'' Hardaway Jr. said. "They have been in this situation before. With the coaching staff they have and the players they have, they have a lot of experience."

The Gators advanced Friday by defeating Florida Gulf Coast, 62-50. Florida's defense shut down the Eagles' transition to send the tournament's Cinderella team home.

The Wolverines like to get out and run too, often using a lineup of four guards with McGary in the middle. McGary scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the victory over Kansas.

Before Burke's dramatic shot forced overtime, it was McGary's relentless play that sparked the Wolverines' late second-half comeback.

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound freshman McGary is prepared for a slugfest with Gators center Patric Young on Sunday.

"He's a big, strong post player,'' McGary said. "He's got some good post moves. I know he's got a jump hook that we're going to have to go up against him, wall him up, give him strong chest and hope for the best."

The Gators played superb defense against FCGU, improving to 25-0 this season when they hold the opposition to 60 points or less. Michigan's magic number is 80 -- the Wolverines are 12-0 when they score 80 or more points.

Something has got to give.

"It's going to be a battle of wills,'' Burke said.

Following his crash course on the Gators early Saturday, Beilein turned off the film with a couple of primary concerns. One, he couldn't help but notice the way the Gators dominated the offensive boards Friday against FGCU.

Florida had 15 offensive rebounds to FGCU's 6. As for that Gators defense that ranks third nationally by giving up only 53.7 points a game, Beilein expects to spend a lot of time leading up until Sunday's 2:20 p.m. ET tip-off looking for ways to score.

"We're having trouble finding spots we can attack,'' Beilein said. "It has a lot to do with the matchups, the makeup of the team, the experience of the team. They're just guarding their yard. They're staying in front of people and contesting and not [allowing] a lot of second opportunities."

Asked if the Gators remind him of any Big Ten teams, Hardaway Jr. offered little hesitation.

"I have to say Ohio State but without the shot blockers Ohio State has,'' Hardaway Jr. said. "They are very, very solid. Their guards can really defend. Their bigs are solid. Patric Young is a great big guy down in the low post. It's going to be a tough matchup. We've got to find ways to score easy baskets."

That's exactly what the Gators don't want the Wolverines to do.

Florida (29-7) will spend a lot of time trying to stop Burke, but the Wolverines also have McGary, Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III and freshman guard Nik Stauskas to contend with.

Hardaway Jr. won't mind if the Gators focus too much on Burke.

"You canít really focus on him too much,Ē Hardaway, Jr., says. ďI mean, a lot of guys focus on him, but thatís the worst thing you can do. We have so many other guys out there on the court that can not only make plays, but score the ball as well. Itís tough for the defense. He just does such a great job of using his eyes.Ē

Burke is prepared to see a lot of Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton in his face Sunday. He carved his own March Madness moment Friday with that long 3-pointer against Kansas. He has an idea of what could be next.

"We're going to have to try and find ways to attack their pressure and make their pressure our offense,'' Burke said.

 

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