LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Assistant coach Luke Yaklich threw out the word “disbelief” recollecting what had just happened in Staples Center.
Under the biggest spotlight that the Michigan men’s basketball team (31-7 overall) has been in thus far, it clicked on all cylinders to post a 27-point beatdown over No. 7 seed Texas A&M. The lopsided contest was the neuralyzer that put the third-seeded Wolverines’ woes — perhaps its two most sluggish back-to-back efforts against Montana and Houston — in the past.
For Yaklich and the other first-year assistant, DeAndre Haynes, it was easy to describe Thursday’s all-around onslaught as unbelievable. But after a day to soak in their team’s spot in the Elite Eight, they have come to just recognize it as Michigan basketball, the result of everything they’ve harped their players on throughout the season.
“I’m just a believer right now,” Haynes said. “I’ve been telling everybody, you see after the Big Ten Tournament, the first couple of games we played in Wichita, it wasn’t our best games. But we were due for a good game.
“I don’t know what to call it. I just say we go with the flow.”
In six days, the NCAA Tournament has showcased all sides of Michigan — the Wolverines can go from zero to 100 back to zero miles an hour just between commercial breaks. Against Florida State (23-11) on Saturday for a place in the Final Four, the challenge isn’t just about matching up, it’s about suspending the belief that the performance against the Aggies will magically come again.
“It’s great to get into a rhythm like that,” said senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. “But you can’t really try to recreate it because that’s where you can go wrong.”
Added Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton: “I don't think there are any magic bullets. I just think we've got to be who we are, and hopefully that will be enough to mitigate who (Michigan is).”
While Hamilton shrugs off the chances of another performance like the Wolverines had last round, the ninth-seeded Seminoles have also far surpassed their Tournament expectations with wins over No. 1 seed Xavier and No. 4 seed Gonzaga. The depth of their lineup extends like a magician pulling knotted handkerchiefs out of their sleeve.
Ten Florida State players average at least 10.8 minutes a game, six of them sat upon the dais on Friday to speak to the media — there was more than a handful of stars to pick.
“One of the phrases that we use to represent who we are: we're 18 strong,” Hamilton said. “We win games by committee. We might have five guys to start, but they may not be the same five that finish. We believe in that philosophy.”
Though Michigan hopes to not let the offensive outburst distract from tomorrow’s game plan, it is hard to ignore the similar challenges that the Seminoles pose. Like the Aggies, Florida State is huge — it has two towering seven-footers and four other regulars over 6-foot-6.
Freshman guard Jordan Poole acknowledges the familiar length, and also believes they are more reflexive than Texas A&M.
“They’re a quick team and they like to get out in transition,” he said. “They’re extremely long — Texas A&M was a long team and liked to press the floor, and Florida State likes to press the floor too.”
Michigan, of course, does not lack the speed to keep up with the Seminoles. The Wolverines, aside from their usual preparation, also need to focus on not getting ahead of themselves.
For Haynes, any magic of the moment is invested in this matchup.
“When I first took the job here I told people ‘This is my Disneyworld. Where dreams come true,’ ” Haynes said. “That’s what’s going on with me right now. I’m just blessed to be in this situation.”