Michigan Basketball History

Submitted by Swayze Howell Sheen on March 13th, 2009 at 7:48 AM

I've been watching Michigan basketball for about 30 years now. These are some of my memories.

1986. Big Ten Title on the line. Indiana coming to Crisler Arena for the big showdown. Off the tip, Richard Rellford gets the ball on the wing and slams it down as Crisler goes crazy. Michigan blows out Indiana 80-52 to take the title. A freshman named Glen Rice has to tape his fingers because all he does is slam the ball.

1989. Illinois visits Crisler. Kenny Battle, Kendall Gill, Lowell Hamilton, etc. Everyone on their team seems to be the same height and they take turns slamming the ball on us all night long as we lose badly. Though we beat them later in the Final Four, anyone who saw this game as up close as I did thinks that Illinois was the better team.

1989. Final Game. Amazingly, we are down to Seton Hall by 5 in the OT. Does anybody remember that part? After the win, a number of us stroll around downtown to soak in the atmosphere. Just the other day I heard that Seton Hall also had a 20-year reunion for their almost-national-championship team. They still are complaining about the call at the end. It is silly
to complain, because we were about to score anyhow. Rumeal had passed the ball to Mark Hughes, who was open for the winning shot. People probably don't remember, but some mystic kook told Fisher to keep Hughes in the game because he would hit the game winner.

1993. Final Four. We drive down for the weekend, which goes perfectly ... at first. The food is great. The atmosphere: New Orleans! Also great. And the first game: beyond great. The Kentucky game is amazing; Webber puts us on his back and carries us in a game not many thought we would win. Webber's final line for the night: 27 points, 13 rebounds. Does anyone remember how Webber won us this game? I do.
After the game, numerous Kentucky fans, in tears, shake my hand to congratulate us. For this, I still think fondly of Kentuckians, despite all the in-breeding.

1993. Final Game. No, they don't remember Webber v. Kentucky. All they remember is this one moment. I still blame Fisher. The entire game is a blur. How come we keep letting Donald Williams shoot three pointers? I recall hearing Coach K. on TV after the game, saying "it is not enough just to tell players once that you have no timeouts. You have to tell your point guard to tell everybody repeatedly during the free throws too. It gets crazy out there on the court." Or something like that. That is why I blame Fisher. It is a long 18 hour drive home.
At a gas station in Ohio, some asshole looks at our plates and outerwear and asks: "how was the basketball game last night?"

The Gap. Somewhere in there we hear about "the next fab five". We hear about a great young coach with "Duke credentials". It is all very forgettable. So I have chosen to forget.

2009. A game at Minnesota no one thought we could win. A loss, and NIT Amaker classic is ours to win again. Down by double digits in the second half. And yet they dig deep. And they do it. Manny, Sims, everyone: they are amazing. And then Iowa. Easy to letdown. Easy to let it slip through our fingers, once again. Instead, a blow out. It is no Big Ten Title, but it reminds me of that Indiana game from my childhood. A big game, with something on the line. A big game, with the fear that all that happened during "the gap" will come back and haunt us. A big game, and a big win. Go Blue. And thank you, to this team, to this Coach, for wiping away those many years in the Gap and giving us something to remember, again.



March 13th, 2009 at 10:08 AM ^

Unfortunately, I am pretty young so I have not seen or remembered anything other than 2009 and the "Gap" (or Dark Ages... whichever). It's great to finally see some success other than what's on ESPN Classic. Hopefully they are a middle seed and can pull an upset. That would be great to see finally. Next year and those thereafter look to be nothing but promising.


March 13th, 2009 at 10:30 AM ^

I go back a little farther . . .

1964-66 . . . Cazzie Russell - listening on the radio his sophomore year as they beat Illinois with Tal Brody and Skip Thoren. My introduction to Michigan basketball. Being too young to stay up late and watch the 1965 NCAA finals v UCLA from Portland OR. Watching or listening to Cazzie (games were televised only rarely in those days) lead the team to another last-minute comeback

1967 My first game in person at Yost Field House v Purdue.

1968-70 The Rudy T years. Not many wins, but they put a lot of points on the board.

1971 Henry Wilmore and a group of fellow sophomores that lived in West Quad with my older brother (Ken Brady, Ernie Johnson, John Lockard), return Michigan to some prominence, but fall short of the Big Ten title and the only way into the NCAAs.

1974 - down by 15 at halftime to undefeated Indiana which was likely to be ranked #1 in the next poll, the Campy Russell-led team came back in the second half to win 73-71. Michigan and Indiana tied for the title and held a playoff in Champaign for the NCAA bid. Michigan knocked off the Hoosiers again to advance to the NCAAs. Wayman Britt holds Adrian Dantley to 2 points in the sweet 16 before the Wolverines fall to Marquette.

1975 - first year of multiple NCAA bids for one tourney and Michigan's second place Big Ten finish (12-6 in conf) earns the chance to play UCLA in Pullman Washington. Michigan leads much of the game but falls in OT despite big games from CJ Kupec and John Robinson. UCLA wins the title in Wooden's last year.

1976 - Michigan has undefeated Indiana on the ropes in Bloomington, but a couple of bad calls ( including a travel on Phil Hubbard when he was fouled by multiple Hoosiers), a missed front end of one and one, and a controversial put back by IU's Jim Crews at the buzzer sends the game to OT where IU pulls it out. Rickey Green hitting a shot from the buzzer to beat Wichita State in the 1st round of the NCAAs, after Michigan got the ball back when Grote drew a charge on Lynbert "Cheese" Johnson. Another Sweet 16 win over Dantley and Notre Dame (now you know why Digger hates Michigan, check out his all-time record v UM), a comeback in the Elite 8 to beat Missouri despite 43 points from Willie Smith. A romp over undefeated Rutgers (every time a NJ team has made the final 4, it has lost to Michigan - Princeton '65, Rutgers '76 and Seton Hall '89) and then a six-point half-time lead over undefeated Indiana playing without Bob Wilkerson who went to the hospital with a concussion. Indiana scored 57 points in the in the second half to win the title going away.

1977 - #1 in the nation in the final poll, but falling to UNCC in the Elite 8 in Lexington. NCAA champ Marquette lost at UM in the regular season finale.

1978 - Phil Hubbard's season-ending injury dashing hopes for another strong year.

matty blue

March 13th, 2009 at 10:56 AM ^

a) the rumeal robinson call was a bad call. it doesn't make the championship less valid.
b) mark hughes "would have scored?" kinda meaningless, don't you think? if they hadn't called the foul on rumeal, and hughes got the shot but missed it, i don't know that we could say "rumeal would have made the free throws?" the hughes thing is a red herring.

Willie Heston

March 13th, 2009 at 11:42 AM ^

Told the wife to clear the honey-do slate for later this evening because I had a game to watch.

She is not used to me scheduling to watch Michigan sports outside of football season. "Basketball? Really?"

Yes. Basketball.

Some of my best Ann Arbor memories are storming the streets after both the Illinois and Seton wins in '89.

The gap has been very long and dark. The new dawn is here.

Bill Martin is starting to look like a genius.


March 13th, 2009 at 11:53 AM ^

...was an absolutely classic win. Pitino-Kentucky were at the peak of their power. That tournament they were DESTROYING teams, winning every game by 30-40 points, starting out games with 34-6 type runs. Michigan was the underdog, and won.

That same year, another classic game: 2nd round, down early in the 2nd half by 17 (?!?) to an upstart UCLA team (the nucleus of which would win the NCAA tourney two years later), the Fab Five somehow made a huge comeback and won.


March 13th, 2009 at 1:25 PM ^

Yep - we were down 19 (IIRC) to the Bruins. That was the year that Bill Walton called us out for no particular reason, labeling us "underachievers" (despite the fact that we were a #1 seed). When we faced Kentucky, almost no one gave us a chance. It was one of the rare times the "no one gives us respect" card was legit. Great, great win.


March 13th, 2009 at 3:07 PM ^

Walton didn't just call us underachivers, he called us "overrated underachievers." I was never sure how we could be both. It seems to me either we were deservedly ranked high and underachieved, or we were overrated and therefore accomplished great achievements to reach back-to-back finals.


March 13th, 2009 at 12:01 PM ^

handle remind me of SwayzeHowell from Haloscan, and his communications with Coach Schiano, but your post is good and reminds me of how awesome the semi final games in both 92 and 93 were (too often forgotten by the finals disappointments). Good stuff. 92 had back to back tight contests with the Columus corridor (beating the 1 seed OSU, and then knocking of Cinci who I think had Nick VA at that time).

Too bad all we remember are the finals, because damn, what fun runs those were.


March 13th, 2009 at 12:07 PM ^

My best memories of the mid 80s was a guard by the name of Garde Thompson. He was a family friend and nothing could have been more cool for a 10 year old than to sit in his seats at Crisler and to meet the players after the game. I'll never forget meeting Roy Tarpley at an italian restaurant that all the players and families would go to after games.

1989 not much to add other than I was amazed that we stepped up against Illinois in the tourney after they completely kicked our ass during the conference season. I taped every game that tourney and I must have watched that Higginson spin dribble at halfcourt followed by a dunk over Hamilton 1000 times.

1993 when Webber called that timeout I was on spring break in Hilton Head and I remember being so upset that I went outside and actually punched a tree. Some other spring breaker from Pennsylvania felt bad for me so she "consoled" me that night. It was little consolation.

I ended up going to grad school at UNC 8 years later and I can't tell you how many times I would hear "time-out" when someone would find out where I went to undergrad. I love Carolina but for that one day in April 1993. Even though I would outwardly let those comments slide off my back, it always actually really got to me.

Our last tourney appearance was my senior year in 1998. This is going to be a great Sunday selection show that I'll watch from a ski lodge in Mammoth.

Go Blue!


March 13th, 2009 at 12:09 PM ^

The Illinois game from the Final Four in 89 was probably the first M basketball game I watched. I would have been 11 then. I had grown up on the west coast as a Michigan football fan. Probably didn't even realize they had a basketball team too until someone mentioned to me that they were in the Final Four. I was a big Pistons fan at the time, so I thought I'd check it out.

Win vs. Illinois, crazy nail-biting win vs. Seton Hall, and I was hooked.

Until the Gap, that is. It's good to be back following this team.


March 16th, 2009 at 8:56 PM ^

when Bill Frieder was the head coach and Roy Tarpley was playing during the mid 80's. Then he took the Arizona St. job and Bo said he wouldn't coach the team during the NCAA tournament. That's when Fisher took over as interim coach. Anybody else remember that?