Colin Castleton was already excited to become a member of Michigan’s basketball team next season. Saturday night only raised his level of anticipation.
Michigan is heading back to the Final Four for the eighth time in program history and the first time since 2013 after beating Florida State 58-54 Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Wolverines will face Loyola-Chicago next Saturday in San Antonio for the right to play in the National Championship Game on April 2. The other Final Four semifinal matchup will be decided on Sunday when Kansas and Duke play for the Midwest Regional title and Villanova faces Texas Tech for the East Regional championship.
Castleton is part of a five-player recruit class for next season that is ranked No. 16 in the country by the 247Sports composite. He’s joined by forwards Ignas Brazdeikis of Mono, Ontario, and Brandon Johns of East Lansing, and guards David DeJulius Jr. of Detroit and Adrien Nunez of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“It’s great because you see how much they’ve grown over the year and knowing I’m going to go play under a coach who improves players that much and for a team that has that camaraderie, I’m excited to get up there,” said Castleton, a 6-foot-10 forward from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Father Lopez High School. “You can tell whenever they win a game, whenever somebody gets fouled or gets a block or a steal, you can tell how much they love each other.”
DeJulius was in Los Angeles with his father for the Sweet 16 win against Texas A&M and for the victory against Florida State.
Castleton and DeJulius’ other recruiting classmates were equally excited.
Final 4 here we come!!!! 〽️〽️〽️〽️✔️✔️ GO BLUE!!!
— Ignas Brazdeikis (@_iggy_7) March 25, 2018
— Adrien Nunez (@NunezAdrien) March 25, 2018
The victory also elicited jubilation from former Wolverines basketball players. Jalen Rose told Land of 10 this week that he felt this team had something special about it and that he has Michigan beating Duke in the title game on his bracket sheet.
— Jalen Rose (@JalenRose) March 25, 2018
Tim Hardaway Jr. was a member of the 2013 team that reached the National Championship Game. He’s currently playing with the NBA’s New York Knicks, along with Trey Burke, the former Wolverines point guard.
WE’RE BAAAAAAACKKKK #GoBlue
— Tim Hardaway Jr (@T_HardJR) March 25, 2018
Zak Irvin was a part of last season’s Big Ten Tournament champions that reached the Sweet 16. He is playing for the Knicks’ G-League team, the Westchester Knicks.
Final Four Bound!!! #GoBlue〽️
— Zak Irvin (@zirvin21) March 25, 2018
Even the Michigan football team past, present and future, got involved. Coach Jim Harbaugh sent his congratulations while former cornerback Jourdan Lewis had a little fun on Twitter with Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the team chaplain for Loyola-Chicago, before backing off. It was all in good fun, but Lewis probably doesn’t want to tempt fate.
I really tried. I can’t make those Sister Jean jokes.
— Jourdan Lewis (@JourdanJD) March 25, 2018
Michigan 2018 football recruits Mustapha Muhammad and Cameron McGrone also joined in on the celebration.
— 〽️ustapha (@MustaphaM_) March 25, 2018
Final 4 〽️‼️
Do More Say Less#GoBlue
— Cam McGrone 💪🏽 (@McGrone_Strong) March 25, 2018
Michigan has long been known for its offensive prowess but it’s been the defense that has carried the Wolverines often this season. It certainly did against Florida State when Michigan made just 4 of 22 3-point attempts. The Wolverines made 14 against Texas A&M but Florida State was more aggressive on defense and contested most shots. The Seminoles blocked 7 shots, but Michigan’s defense was better as it held Florida State to just 31 percent field-goal shooting and forced 15 turnovers.
“It’s awesome to win a game with grit and grind and not just score all the time like we did last game; you find a way to win games in other ways,” said Castleton, who believes the days of Michigan being known as an offense-first or soft team are over. “That was a big choice in my recruitment because [assistant] coach Luke [Yaklich] really needs a rim protector next year and that caught my eye. I can block shots very well. It’s awesome because they lock down and they also score as well as anyone in the nation. Everybody can see that now.”