A look at Michigan’s other seven Final Four teams

A look at Michigan’s other seven Final Four teams

Michigan sits on the precipice of winning the national title. How special would that be? The Wolverines have won it all just one time, back in 1988-89. But the program has been in the Final Four seven times prior to this season.

Here’s a look at Michigan’s other Final Four teams.

1963-64. This first Michigan squad to breakthrough to the Final Four was led by coach Dave Strack. His star? Cazzie Russell, who led the program to what would be the first of three Big Ten titles and consecutive Final Four trips. Russell was just a sophomore, but he was sensational in leading Michigan in scoring with a 24.8 average. Bill Buntin was a standout sidekick, averaging 23.2 points to give the Wolverines one of the most potent duos in program history. Michigan received a bye in the opening round of the 1964 NCAA tourney. Guess who it beat in the next round? Yep, Loyola. The Wolverines then dumped Ohio to reach the Final Four, where they lost to Duke before dumping Kansas State in the third-place game. Michigan finished 23-5 overall and 11-3 in the Big Ten, ranking No. 2 in the nation.

1964-65. Cazzie Russell was even better this year, averaging 25.7 points as a junior to push the Wolverines to a second straight Big Ten title on the way to a return trip to the Final Four. Bill Buntin chipped in 20.1 points per game. This Michigan squad is noteworthy as it became the first to beat a No. 1 ranked team when it beat Wichita State. This Wolverine team also was the first to reach the NCAA title game, losing to John Wooden and UCLA after knocking off Dayton and Vanderbilt to reach the Final Four, where Michigan beat Princeton to advance to play the Bruins. Buntin became the first Michigan player picked in the NBA draft, as the Wolverines finished 24-4 overall and 13-1 in the Big Ten.

1975-76. The late Johnny Orr had a special team led by Rickey Green and Phil Hubbard that became part of history in losing the title game to an Indiana team that is the last to finish a season unbeaten. This 25-7 Wolverine club took down Wichita State, Notre Dame and Missouri to reach the Final Four, where Michigan toppled previously perfect Rutgers before falling to Kent Benson, Scott May, Quinn Buckner and the Hoosiers coached by Bobby Knight. It’s the last time two Big Ten teams met for the championship.

1988-89. No one expected the Wolverines to be the champs when the 1989 NCAA tourney began, especially after Michigan A.D. Bo Schembechler told Bill Frieder to pack his bags after saying he was taking the Arizona State job when the tourney ended. Schembechler wanted a “Michigan man” and promoted assistant Steve Fisher, famously giving him the “interim” tag. Fisher promptly led the Wolverines to the title. Michigan opened with a win vs. No. 14 Xavier, then took down No. 11 South Florida. In the Sweet 16, the Wolverines jettisoned No. 2 North Carolina and then dispatched No. 5 Virginia to reach the Final Four in Seattle. In the Final Four, the Wolverines won an epic battle with Illinois, led by Kenny Battle, Kendall Gill, Stephen Bardo, Nick Anderson and Lowell Hamilton, before topping Seton Hall in the first OT title game. Glen Rice was the catalyst of the improbable six-game run to the title, earning Most Outstanding Player honors. This is still the lone Michigan team to win it all.

1991-92. This is the year the brash and cocky “Fab Five” turned the sporting world on its ear by taking Michigan to the national title game. The incomparable quintet of Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson led the No. 6 seed Wolverines on an improbable march to the title game, taking down No. 11 Temple, No. 14 East Tennessee State, No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 1 Ohio State to reach the Final Four. The Fab Five didn’t stop there, beating No. 4 Cincinnati before falling by 20 points to No. 1 Duke in the championship tilt.

1992-93. The Fab Five was every bit as fabulous the second time around. Now weighed down by great expectations, the Wolverines still delivered. Yes, they failed to win a Big Ten title for a second year in a row. But, who cares? Michigan was back in the Final Four. Steve Fisher’s No. 1 seeded squad took down No. 16 Coastal Carolina, No. 9 UCLA, No. 12 George Washington and No. 7 Temple to reach the Final Four, Michigan beat No. 1 Kentucky in OT before losing in infamous fashion to No. 1 North Carolina in the title game after Chris Webber grabbed a rebound in the final seconds with his team down by two points and called a timeout the Wolverines didn’t have.

2012-13. John Beilein introduced himself to America by taking this squad to the summit. After finishing just fourth in the Big Ten, the Wolverines got hot in March with big man Mitch McGary playing a big role. With a team led by future pros in Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Nik Stauskas and Trey Burke, No. 4 seed Michigan rolled by No. 13 South Dakota State, No. 5 VCU, No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 Florida to reach the Final Four. There, the Wolverines beat No. 4 Syracuse before losing to No. 1 Louisville.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

Advertisement