Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about Michigan’s Fab Five, as this year is the 25th anniversary of their run to the National Championship game as freshmen. But as phenomenal and impactful as that Wolverines team was, they were unable to do what the 1989 Michigan team did, and that was walk away with the title.
March Madness always provides us with exciting storylines, game-winning shots, buzzer-beaters and dramatic finishes that make the NCAA Tournament America’s greatest sporting spectacle: a three-week, one-and-done dash that never disappoints.
Danny Ainge going coast-to-coast to beat Notre Dame in the 1981 Sweet 16, Tyus Edney going 94-feet in four seconds to beat Boise State en route to the national championship in 1995 and Christian Laettner’s shot to get Duke past Kentucky in perhaps the greatest March Madness game ever in the 1992 East Regional Final against Kentucky, among so many other moments, are what the tournament unlike any other event.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll flash back to some of those unforgettable players and moments. Today, we take a look back at the greatest individual performance that one single player delivered during an entire tournament run: the University of Michigan’s Glen Rice in 1989.
Coming off of a phenomenal junior season in which he averaged 22.1 points per game, Rice took things to an entirely different level as a senior. He connected on 53% of his 3-point attempts while averaging 25.6 points en route to being named the Big Ten Player of the Year.
But prior to the tournament, Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler fired Bill Frieder and replaced him with an anonymous assistant coach named Steve Fisher. But Wolverines fans who were nervous about an inexperienced head coaching making his debut in the NCAA Tournament need not have worried, because they had the most dynamic force in college basketball who would go on to deliver a string of performances that still resonate on the March Madness tapestry.
Rice averaged 30.7 postseason points, scoring 184 points in six games and leading Michigan to the school’s only basketball national championship.
He scored 23 points in a first-round win over Xavier, then spontaneously combusted for a 36, while hitting on 16 of his 25 shot attempts against South Alabama in the second round.
In the Sweet 16 against North Carolina, he went off for 34 points, going 13-for-19. In the Elite Eight against Virginia, he missed only three of his 16 shots en route to a 32-point outburst.
In the Final Four, he gave Illinois 28, and followed that up with a 31-point explosion against Seton Hall in the national championship game. During his torrid six-game run, he was hotter than fish grease, making an incredible 57.2 % of his shots from the floor.
Remember Kemba Walker’s amazing run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament? As exceptional as it was, Walker’s 141-point total is dwarfed by what Glen Rice did in 1989.
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