ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ron Gibson can’t go to San Antonio for the Final Four because of his job at the University of Michigan Hospital, but he made sure the Michigan basketball team knew he would be with them from afar. He wasn’t the only one.
The third-seeded Wolverines (32-7) were greeted by hundreds of fans outside Crisler Center on Wednesday afternoon as they departed for Texas. They face NCAA Tournament Cinderella story, 11-seed Loyola-Chicago (32-5), in the national semifinals Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET. Top seeds Villanova and Kansas will play in the second semifinal, and the winners meet Monday night for the national title.
Two more victories and this Michigan team will join the 1989 club as national champions.
Coach John Beilein is leading the Wolverines to the Final Four for the second time in his 11 seasons. They reached the national title game in 2013 after beating Syracuse in the Final Four. The Wolverines entered this tournament as the No. 3 seed in the West and beat No. 14 Montana, No. 6 Houston, No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 9 Florida State to earn their trip to San Antonio.
Beilein and team captains Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Moe Wagner and Duncan Robinson spoke to the crowd before leaving for Willow Run Airport and the charter flight.
“They exemplify what Michigan basketball is all about,” Beilein said. “They are going to be on fire this weekend … and they also play some pretty good defense, too.”
Besides his duties at the hospital, Gibson also has worked on the event staff for the last seven years. He attended a similar sendoff in 2013.
“The fan base is just as pumped as last time,” Gibson said. “We’re so happy to see them make it. … If I didn’t have to work, I’d be down there.”
Michigan followed its last Final Four appearance by going to the Elite Eight in 2014. The next season was Abdur-Rahkman’s freshman campaign. He has been waiting to experience what those previous teams did.
“We’ve still got work to do,” Abdur-Rahkman said before handing the microphone to Wagner, who arrived on campus from Berlin in 2015-16.
“This is something special and something cool for us as players, and we’re very grateful and happy that we can share something like this with you,” Wagner said.
Robinson is a fifth-year senior who transferred from Division III Williams College after one season. He helped Williams reach the DIII national title game in that lone season. Now he gets to experience it on the Division I level.
“These last four weeks have been really special,” Robinson told the crowd. “It’s a huge part due to you guys and all the support you’ve given us. It’s meant a lot.”
Correction: Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt’s last name was misspelled in a caption in the original post. Land of 10 regrets the error.