Michigan Wins Their First College Basketball National Title: This Day in Sports History

Glen Rice
Glen Rice / Getty Images/Getty Images

Michigan entered the 1989 NCAA tournament with hopes of winning their first-ever college basketball national title. They got there on the back of star senior forward Glen Rice, who averaged 25 points per game that season. On April 3, 1989, they would prevail, beating Seton Hall 80-79 in overtime to win it all.

They didn't get there without some drama, though. Before the tournament began, coach Bill Frieder announced he'd be leaving the team after nine years to coach at Arizona State. He planned to coach through the tournament, but Michigan AD Bo Schembechler fired him outright after the announcement and installed assistant Steve Fisher as the new head coach for the stretch run. His reasoning? "A Michigan man is going to coach a Michigan team."

Despite that sudden turnover, Michigan rolled through the early rounds without too much trouble, winning two close games against Xavier and UNC (with a confident defeat of South Alabama sandwiched in there) before blowing out Virginia by nearly 40 points to head to the Final Four.

Michigan barely squeaked by Illinois by the tally of 83-81 in a game that went down to the wire to secure their spot in the championship game. Seton Hall easily handled Duke to earn their spot as the Wolverines' opponent.

Rice had been stellar all tournament, leading the team in scoring in every game leading up to the final and averaging 30 points per contest. The battle with Seton Hall was no cakewalk, though; Rice scored 34, but the game went to overtime. Michigan was down by three with less than a minute to go in the extra period before Terry Mills sunk a jumper to cut the lead to one. Michigan locked it down on the other end, got the ball back, and Rumeal Robinson knocked down two free throws following a foul to clinch their first title.

Rice was naturally named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after scoring 34 in the championship game. He scored 184 points in that 1989 tourney, a record that stands to this day. He'd be selected fourth in that summer's draft by the Miami Heat, and would go on to play 15 years in the NBA.