The year was 1989. Toyota launched its luxury brand Lexus, the Mirage hotel and Casino opened in Las Vegas, the US Government provided a $150 billion bailout for hundreds of saving and loan associations, and Senior Forward Glen Rice set the college basketball scene ablaze leading the Michigan Wolverines to a National Championship.
Rice averaged 25.6 points per game that season earning the Big Ten scoring title and all-conference honors. Despite his ability to seemingly score at will Rice saved his best performance for the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolverines entered the 1989 NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Southeast behind Oklahoma and North Carolina. Despite having a talented roster the team had underachieved and to make matters worse their head coach, Bill Frieder, had been fired just prior to the tournament after his secretive agreement to coach Arizona State the following season went public. This left Rice and his teammates in the hands of interim head coach Steve Fisher who had been promoted from assistant.
But then it happened. Everything that makes March Madness great culminated in to one helluva ride for the Wolverines. First it was Xavier, the South Alabama. Next to fall would be North Carolina in the Sweet 16 and the Virginia in the Elite Eight. Game after game, shot after shot; Glen Rice was on fire and the Wolverines appeared to be a team of destiny.
In the Final Four Michigan was pitted against Big Ten rival Illinois, a team they had lost two at home by 16 just a few weeks prior. Michigan won a late on a put back by teammate Sean Higgins. The Wolverines were on their way to the Finals against Seton Hall.
The Championship game would go to overtime. Wolverine Point Guard Rumeal Robinson sank two free throws with three seconds left to give Michigan the victory. Rice poured in 31 points and 11 rebounds. It was amazing to watch as he just wouldn’t miss. Three pointer after three pointer; it was like he was shooting the ball in to an ocean. The basket seemed that large.
Rice set a tournament record, scoring 184 points in six games. If you did the math you know that equates to over 30 points per game; a streak that will never be duplicated. Rice paced Michigan’s 1989 improbable run to the NCAA Championship. It was indeed one of the greatest Cinderella stories in tournament history. One of the many beauties about history is that it tends to repeat itself from time to time. So the question has to be asked; who are this year’s Glen Rice and Michigan Wolverines?
Only time will tell.
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