ATLANTA — Could Hamburg native Blake McLimans be going from the Final Four to the Big 4?
McLimans, a 6-foot-10 senior at Michigan, has one year of eligibility remaining after this season and confirmed Friday that he’s graduating and won’t be back with the Wolverines next year. Although McLimans has played sparingly throughout his three years at Michigan, his size and floor-running ability could make him attractive to one of his hometown teams. Niagara, for instance, has a hole to plug following the graduation of fifth-year senior transfer Devon White.
“Right now I’m just really focused on Michigan,” McLimans said. “Once the season’s over I’ll handle that.”
Who can blame him for wanting to savor the experience? Michigan appeared done for in the Sweet 16 when it trailed Kansas by five with 30 seconds left in regulation. UM won in OT. That was followed by a resounding victory over Florida in the regional final.
“At first it was kind of surreal,” McLimans said. “When we won that game and knew we were going to the Final Four it’s not really a feeling you can describe. You just have to go through it and experience it in order to know what it feels like.
“My friends back home have been really excited for me, saying way to go, you’re at the Final Four, embrace it because not a lot of people get to experience it. That’s what I’ve been doing so far.”
McLimans has appeared in two of Michigan’s four tournament games – against Florida and VCU. He has not scored.
Three players in the Final Four arrived in the States via the fertile Ontario pipeline. Michigan’s Nik Stauskas came out of Mississauga, Wichita State’s Chadrack Lufile and Nick Wiggins from Burlington and Toronto, respectively.
“Especially in Toronto, the level of competition has gone way up over the last 10 years,” Stauskas said. “A lot of the kids playing in the NCAA Tournament that are from Canada I’ve grown up with. I’ve been playing against them since I was 8 or 9 years old. We all kind of pushed each other to get to this level and I’m real proud of all of them.”
Mark down Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim against any rules change that makes it easier for players to transfer or transfer and play without sitting out a season.
“If we allowed players to transfer and play right away, you’d have a mass exodus every year because I have three or four guys, if they knew they could play right away, they’d probably think, ‘Might be a little better over there,’ and they’d have their friends or their [AAU] coaches and people around them telling them every day, ‘Geez, you can go there, they need a guy like you, you’ll play right away, you’ll get the ball, everything.’ You’d have a mass chaotic situation if you had that kind of freedom.”
The NCAA has allowed transfers to play right away if they switch schools on the premise of helping an ailing family member. Boeheim says that makes no sense at all.
“Even if you’re within 10 minutes of your house, when you’re in season, you don’t have any time to get out,” he said.
“Although I think in some cases a transfer is a good situation ... I think the sitting out a year at least makes them think about what they’re doing and makes sure that’s what they want to do.”
Some 400 players are expected to switch schools after this season. That includes UB freshman forward Andre McPhail, who appears on the list of pending transfers annually compiled by Jeff Goodman of cbssports.com. Goodman’s first list came out Thursday and already includes 100 players. Canisius guard Reggie Groves also is on the list. Groves, like McLimans, has a year of post-graduation eligibility.
Syracuse likes the experience advantage it has over Michigan tonight.
The Wolverines have seven players averaging double-digit minutes – four freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors. The Orange go nine deep averaging double-digit minutes – a cast that includes four upperclassmen, including seniors James Southerland and Brandon Triche.
“You know, we do a great job of making people take tough shots,” Southerland said. “I know Michigan is a young team, we’re a little bit older, so we’re going to definitely try to play a little smarter.”
“Just to piggyback off of James, I think our experience, that’s going to be huge in this game,” Triche said. “You know, we’re a very tough defensive team. If we’re able to match their intensity, I think we’ll have the advantage.”
Niagara coach Joe Mihalich was honored with the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award Friday at the collegeinsider.com awards banquet. The award, created in 2008, goes to the coach who has success on the court while maintaining an overall moral integrity. Mihalich guided the Purple Eagles to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season title and a trip to the NIT.