The Wolverine

October 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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28 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2020 BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan's storied basketball tradition really took off in the 1960s under head coach Dave Strack, a man who as- sembled elite talent in Ann Arbor and started what would become decades of outstanding Wolverines hoops. While most consider U-M a football school, the basketball program has made a Final Four in five of the last six decades, the exception being the bar- ren years between 2000 and 2010. Had the Wolverines been a bit more successful in their eight trips, they might be considered one of the "Blue Blood" programs in the nation. While they are 7-1 in the national semifinals, the Wolverines are only 1-6 in title games. Here's The Wolverine's look at the top basketball teams in Michigan history. 1. 1988-89 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS This group, led by All-American Glen Rice, underachieved in the regular season, getting thrashed by champion Illinois in its home finale to drop to a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. When head coach Bill Frieder in- formed athletic director Bo Schem- bechler before the postseason began that he had accepted a job at Arizona State, Schembechler told him to pack his bags immediately. "A Michigan Man will coach Michi- gan," he barked, tabbing assistant Steve Fisher for the job. The rest is history. The squad struggled with Xavier and South Alabama in the first two games before facing an old nemesis in North Carolina, a team that had elimi- nated them in two prior tourney meet- ings. They started to find their groove in Kentucky's Rupp Arena, beating the Tar Heels 92-87 before pounding Virginia in an Elite Eight game. Rice was the catalyst, on fire from long range on his way to scoring an NCAA-record 184 points in six games — a mark that still stands. U-M avenged two losses to Illinois in the Final Four, winning on a last- second shot by sophomore Sean Hig- gins, and then captured the title with two free throws from junior Rumeal Robinson with three seconds remain- ing in overtime to beat Seton Hall. Rice, the tournament's Most Out- standing Player, scored 31 to lead all players and help give U-M its first and only national championship in the sport. 2. 1992-93 NATIONAL RUNNER-UP The second year of the famed Fab Five came with the weight of heavy expectations for Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. They had made the national championship game a year earlier as a No. 6 seed. This time they were a No. 1 seed after finishing 26-4 in the regular season. In just about any other year, their three conference losses would have been good enough for a Big Ten title. Two losses to Indiana, however, cost them that opportunity, and the Hoo- siers would win it. The 1992-93 squad, however, would have the last laugh. It overcame a 17-point deficit in the first half of a second-round win over UCLA, led by Webber's 27 points and 14 rebounds, and cruised to the Final Four with wins over George Washington and Temple. They won a heavyweight battle with Kentucky in the semifinal, VICTORS VALIANT Michigan's All-Time Top 10 Basketball Teams Rumeal Robinson made two free throws with three seconds left in over- time against Seton Hall to win the Wolverines the 1989 national champion- ship, Michigan's first and only NCAA title in the sport. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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