The 25th Anniversary: U-M’s 1988-89 Team

March 3, 2014


Michigan’s game against Minnesota on Saturday (March 1) will be highlighted by a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Michigan’s 1989 national championship team, which will be honored during the first half.

The 1988-89 Michigan men’s basketball team capped one of the most memorable seasons in program history with its first national championship, claiming the crown in dramatic and unforgettable fashion as the Wolverines culminated a 30-7 season with an overtime win over Seton Hall in the national championship game.

The explosive Wolverines averaged 91.7 points per game with five players in double figures, led by 25.6 points per game from All-American Glen Rice. Along with Rice, Rumeal Robinson (14.9 ppg), Loy Vaught (12.6 ppg), Sean Higgins (12.4 ppg) and Terry Mills(11.6 ppg) each averaged double figures for the Maize and Blue.

From the start of the season, expectations were high for the Wolverines, as they opened the year ranked second in the preseason Associated Press poll. U-M lived up to those expectations early on, winning the Maui Classic with victories over Vanderbilt, Memphis and fourth-ranked Oklahoma. The Maize and Blue went on to win its first 11 games before a surprising loss to Alaska-Anchorage in the Utah Basketball Classic.

Three more wins followed the surprising defeat, including victories over Northwestern and Minnesota to open Big Ten play, before U-M dropped three of four, including a 12-point setback at Illinois.

Three straight wins followed, including a 108-107 double-overtime victory at eighth-ranked Iowa, but losses to Minnesota and Indiana in February left the Wolverines trailing in the Big Ten race. Though they won five straight as February turned to March, a 16-point home loss to Illinois on the final day of the regular season left the Wolverines with a 12-6 record and a third-place finish in Big Ten play.

1989 NCAA champion

Prior to the NCAA Tournament, U-M head coach Bill Frieder accepted the job at Arizona State and the Wolverines installedSteve Fisher as interim coach as the Big Dance began.

U-M was seeded third in the Southeast Regional and sent to Atlanta, Ga., for the opening weekend of the tournament, where the Wolverines slipped past Xavier, 92-87, and South Alabama, 91-82.

From Atlanta, the Wolverines headed to Lexington, Ky., to face North Carolina in the Sweet 16. Having been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by the Tar Heels in each of the previous two seasons, U-M gained a measure of revenge with a 92-87 win to advance to the regional final, where it cruised past Virginia, 102-65, to book its place in the Final Four.

Awaiting the Wolverines in Seattle was Illinois, which had recorded a pair of double-digits victories over the Maize and Blue during the regular season. The third meeting was a back-and-forth affair with the lead changing hands several times in the second half. With the score tied, 81-81, Higgins scored off an offensive rebound to put the Wolverines in front with just a second remaining, lifting U-M into the national championship game against Seton Hall.

1989 NCAA champion

Two nights later, the final against Seton Hall proved to be every bit as dramatic as the semifinal. After 40 minutes, nothing separated the Wolverines and Pirates, as they headed to overtime tied at 71, the first title game to go to overtime since 1963. With just three seconds left in the extra period, Robinson (above, left) went to the line and sank two free throws, giving Michigan an 80-79 victory and the 1989 national championship.

Rice, who scored 31 points in the championship game, was voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring a tournament-record 184 points, capping an outstanding season in which he also earned consensus second team All-America and Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Robinson also was named to the all-tournament team at the Final Four, and he and Vaught earned All-Big Ten recognition.

• The 50th Anniversary: U-M’s 1963-64 Team
• The 40th Anniversary: U-M’s 1973-74 Team


view all 1-3 of 116