ATLANTA — Michigan is more than just five fabulous players.
No, this is quite a team — all the way down the roster.
Fearlessly attacking Syracuse’s suffocating zone in the first half, getting big contributions off the bench, and hanging on for dear life at the end, the Wolverines advanced to the national championship game with a 61-56 victory over the Orange in the Final Four on Saturday night.
So put away those comparisons to the Fab Five.
This group of young stars is determined to leave its own legacy.
“We’ve been a team all year,” said coach John Beilein, whose Wolverines were playing in the Final Four for the first time since 1993, when the Fab Five lost for the second straight time in the national title game. “It was great.”
Michigan (31-7) will be going for its first national title since 1989 when it faces Louisville on Monday at the Georgia Dome. Syracuse (30-10) failed to complete an all-Big East final in the fabled league’s last season before a major overhaul.
Louisville was established as a 4½-point title game favorite.
Don’t expect that to bother the brash young Wolverines a bit. They showed they could win even when their best weapon, Associated Press player of the year Trey Burke, was having a really ugly night.
He scored just seven points on 1-of-8 shooting.
“We know Trey is our leader, and sometimes he’s not going to have a game like he’s had all season,” said Tim Hardaway Jr., who led Michigan with 13 points. “That’s when our team stepped up.”
Trailing 58-56, the Orange had a chance to force overtime. But Brandon Triche was called for a foul when Jordan Morgan stepped in to take the charge with 19.2 seconds left.
“Jordan is our best charge-taker,” Beilein said. “He stood in there and took a good one.”
After Jon Horford made only one of two free throws, Syracuse called timeout and set up a play. Curiously, the Orange didn’t attempt a tying 3-pointer. Instead, Trevor Cooney drove the lane looking to put up an easier shot. But the ball was swatted away, Michigan saved it from going out of bounds and Morgan wound up taking a long pass the other way.