The greatest individual run in the history of the NCAA tournament is a name many of today’s hoops fans may not know.
Here are some hints:
– He wore #41
– he was a 6’7” 2-guard
– he was lights out from 3
– his name was just 2 total syllables.
Okay … it was Glen Rice.
The Wolverines were known more as a football school in those days and legendary coach Bo Schembechler was also the athletic director. UM was a 3-seed with a talented roster of guys like Loy Vaught, Terry Mills, Rumeal Robinson and Sean Higgins who went on to play in the NBA. But heading into the tournament, the team fired its head coach and placed an unknown assistant named Steve Fisher in charge.
Schembechler was perturbed by Bill Frieder’s choice to take the head job at Arizona State and famously said, “A Michigan man will coach Michigan, not an Arizona State man.” (Frieder was coincidentally a UM grad)
In stepped Fisher who employed a simple game plan: Get the ball to Glen and let him shoot.
Rice was such a marksman from deep that his 27 threes remain a record for a single tournament 30 years later. So does Rice’s record for points (184) and field goals (75). Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to fathom such an efficient performance:
30.6 PPG, 57.3% from the field, 55% from the three-point line, and perfect from the line (on just 7 FTs)
In the game to send Michigan to its first Final Four since 1976, Rice was 13-of-16 from the field and a sizzling 9-of-11 from 3.
In the final, Rice was again stellar, leading his team with 31 points and 11 rebounds. In the waning moments, Rumeal Robinson – a 59% free throw shooter – hit both ends of a one-and-one to give Michigan the victory.
Rice was one of the biggest no-brainers for MOP ever. He followed his Wolverines escapades with a strong 15-year NBA career where he averaged 18.3PPG, won an NBA championship in 2000 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and made 3 All-Star appearances. His number 41 jersey was retired by Michigan in 2005.
Most hardcore hoops fans of a certain age will cite Rice as one of the great runs ever, but other performances from the same era get more shine.
1987 was Keith Smart’s tournament-clinching winner, ‘88 was Kansas’ “Danny (Manning) and the Miracles,” UNLV’s legendary team won in 1990, Coach K won his 1st title in 1991. In 1992, Christian Laettner hit his fabled shot against Kentucky.
Another huge factor in history’s view of Rice is Michigan’s Fab Five. Fisher recruited and led one of the most hyped, dynamic and culturally significant teams ever. Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson dominated the headlines but lost in consecutive finals. In fact, the Wolverines have appeared in 4 NCAA Final games since Rice, but have yet to bring home the 2nd title to Ann Arbor.
College basketball has changed so much in the 30 years since Glen Rice. Now Zion Williamson and Duke own the headlines and hoops fans’ attention span. The tournament will probably be great again.
But before one-and-done-viral-sensations dominated the landscape, programs had a few years to build to their moment.
And nobody in the history of college basketball seized it more than Michigan legend Glen Rice.