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Michigan, Florida State went extra yard in NCAA tourney

Jordan Poole and Duncan Robinson of the Michigan

Jordan Poole and Duncan Robinson of the Michigan Wolverines celebrate their team's lead against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second half in the 2018 NCAA Tournament West Regional at Staples Center on March 22, 2018 in Los Angeles. Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw

LOS ANGELES — The game will involve a phrase from a song more than twice as old as any of the players. Involve a near 7-footer from Germany signed overnight. And involve two schools maybe better known for their success in another sport.

Michigan faces Florida State on Saturday night in the NCAA West Regional final and a spot in the Final Four. And if the matchup makes you think of field goals over a crossbar and not into a net, here’s the thinking of Seminoles head coach Leonard Hamilton:

“I think that’s one of the most ridiculous phrases that I’ve heard,” when someone suggested the competitors are better known as football schools. “The basketball world that I live in never identified them as a football school.”

For sure, either Michigan (31-7) or Florida State (23-11) will be identified this season as one of the top basketball teams.

The Seminoles pride themselves on a “junkyard defense,” a term that required an explanation from Leonard Hamilton, their 69-year-old lifer of a head coach.

“In the South, where we’re raised,” he said, “a junkyard is where a lot of broke-down cars are in a big old fence, and they have these ferocious dogs that guard the junkyard. We adopted the principle because we want to be junkyard dogs that really want to protect their yard.”

Hamilton never said whether he heard junkyard dog in the 1970s Jim Croce song, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”

One of the men the Seminoles must stop is Moritz “Mo” Wagner, the 6-11 Michigan center from Berlin, who can shoot, pass and rebound.

John Beilein, the Michigan coach saw Wagner on film. “Because there’s no high school (basketball) in Europe, the NCAA doesn’t allow us to watch him play. But I did visit him in his flat. I asked for a big German dinner and a beer. I got in the elevator with the young man. I said if this kid’s good, I’m going to give him a scholarship. It was October. I took a day off, went over and back in disguise . . . I didn’t want anybody seeing me because word travels fast.”

The Michigan team, winner of 12 in a row, travels the court anyway it can, fast or slow, depending on the opponent.

“I think Coach Beilein is a Hall of Fame coach,” said Hamilton. “He has one of the best offensive systems in the country.”

New York Sports