In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Michigan completes an improbable run to the National Championship beating Seton Hall 80-79 in overtime in the final at the Kingdome in Seattle. The Wolverines played the tournament with an interim coach as Bill Frieder left for Arizona State, leaving Steve Fisher to lead the team in the tournament. The game was highly controversial as the Wolverines won the game thanks to a phantom foul in the final seconds of overtime.
On the eve of the NCAA Tournament, the Michigan basketball program was rocked after a 24-7 season, as Bill Frieder who had led the basketball program since 1980 announced he was leaving to take over the coaching reigns at Arizona State. Frieder who initially planned to coach during the tournament was forced out by Athletic Director Bo Schembeckler, who famously said “A Michigan man will coach Michigan not an Arizona State Man”. This left assistant coach Steve Fisher who had been on the coaching staff since 1982 as the man to lead the Wolverines during the NCAA Tournament. Michigan was the #3 seed in the Southeast Region and started their tournament with a 92-87 win over Xavier. They reached the Sweet 16 with a 91-82 win over South Alabama. In the Regional Semifinals in Lexington, Kentucky, they upset North Carolina 92-87 before crushing Virginia 102-65 to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1976.
Seton Hall were the new kids on the block, they were making just their second NCAA Tournament appearance as P.J. Carlesimo had turned the tiny Catholic school located in South Orange, New Jersey into a Big East power. The Pirates had started the season 13-0 and posted the best record in school history at 26-6. As a result, Seton Hall was the #3 seed in the West Region. The Pirates run to the Final Four began with a 60-51 win over Southwest Missouri State. Next was an 87-73 win over Evansville to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. In the Sweet 16, Seton Hall showed they could play with the big boys as they beat Indiana and Bob Knight 78-65. In the Regional Final in Denver, Seton Hall out ran UNLV 84-61. Seton Hall’s run to the Final Four helped boost the career of Mike Francesca as Don Imus bet him a Porsche that the Pirates would not make the Final Four. At the time, Francesca worked at CBS and was just starting his career at WFAN as the Sports Update man for Imus followed by his own show in the late morning. It would be on the strength of the notoriety of the Porsche bet that Francesca got paired with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo later in the year.
Rounding out the Final Four at the Kingdome in Seattle were Duke who was the #2 seed in the East, and Illinois who was the #1 seed in the Midwest. Duke started their road to the Final Four with a 90-69 win over South Carolina State. Next up was a 70-63 win over West Virginia. In the Sweet 16, the Blue Devils beat Minnesota 87-70 and went on to beat #1 overall Georgetown 85-77 in the Regional Finals in New Jersey Meadowlands. It was the third Final Four appearance in four years for Duke under coach Mike Krzyzewski. Illinois coached by Lou Henson was the only #1 seed standing in the Final Four started their run with a 77-71 win over McNeese State followed by a 72-60 win over Ball State. In the Sweet 16, the Illini beat Louisville 83-69 to reach the Regional Finals in Minneapolis. From there Illinois made it to the Final Four for the first time since 1952 by edging Syracuse 89-86.
Led by Danny Ferry who had a game high 34 points with ten rebounds, Duke managed to build a 38-33 lead at the half in the National Semifinals. However, using a balanced attack Seton Hall had an offensive explosion in the second half outscoring Duke 62-40 to win the game 95-78. Leading the way for the Pirates was the Australian Andrew Gaze who had 20 points. While Daryll Walker had 19 and Gerald Greene had 17 points. The second semifinal was a matchup of Big Ten rivals as Illinois had won both regular season meetings with the Woverines. In a game that was tight throughout Michigan would edge Illinois 83-81, as Glenn Rice had a big night with 28 points while Rumeal Robinson added 14. Illinois meanwhile was led by Kenny Battle who scored a game high 29 points, with Nick Anderson adding 17.
In the National Championship Game, it was Glenn Rice coming up big again, scoring 31 points on the way to being named Most Outstanding Player as Michigan held a 37-32 lead at the half. Seton Hall would rally in the second half again, as John Morton scored a game high 35 points. When the full 40 minutes had passed nothing was decided as the game was tied 71-71. Seton Hall had gotten off to a strong start in overtime and led 79-76 with under a minute left. Terry Mills hit an 11-footer to cut the deficit to one. After a defensive stop by Michigan, the Wolverines down one got the gift of a lifetime as Gerald Greene was whistled for a foul with three seconds left. Rumeal Robinson would go on to hit both foul shots to give Michigan an 80-79 lead. The Pirates were unable to answer as Michigan claimed its first National Championship.
Due to their great run, Steve Fisher was named the fulltime coach at Michigan and became the most successful coach in history of Wolverines basketball as he led them to two more title games with the Fab Five. Seton Hall meanwhile has not been back to the Final Four making just three Sweet 16 appearances and one Elite Eight appearance in the last three decades.