NCAAB Michigan Wolverines

General info
NCAA Division: Division I
Conference: Big Ten
Past Conferences: None

City: Ann Arbor, MI

Stadium: Crisler Center

NCAA Tournaments: 1948, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022


National Championships: 1

Conference Titles: 3 (15 regular-season titles)

Team History

Basketball was slow to gain a foothold in Ann Arbor, since an initial program was terminated after attendance was scarce. It started up again in 1917 and joined the Big Ten, where it quickly built up a run of success with four conference crowns in the 1920s.


Between 1929 and 1964, however, there was just one more Big Ten title (1948) as this football school struggled to find consistent success on the hardwood. Dave Strack, who was a captain on the 1945-46 team, took over as head coach in 1960 and engineered the program’s rise to national prominence.


The 1963-64 squad was ranked at one point as high as No. 2 in the country. Leading the way was a sophomore forward from Chicago named Cazzie Russell, who would average 24.8 points and 9.0 rebounds as the Wolverines raced to the Final Four in their second NCAA Tournament appearance.


Russell, who would eventually go No. 1 in the 1966 NBA draft, averaged 25.7 points as a junior; Michigan won its second straight Big Ten crown and reached the national title game, where it fell to UCLA. His scoring average would leap to 30.8 in his senior campaign at the same time the Wolverines claimed a conference title for the third straight season before falling to Kentucky in the Elite Eight.


Russell put Michigan on the map and it would have several ranked teams in the 1970s under head coach Johnny Orr. The 1975-76 squad was one of the best of this era: it engineered the program’s second all-time national title game appearance, this time against undefeated conference rival Indiana. 


The Spectrum in Philadelphia played host to that contest, which was a tale of two halves. Michigan led by six at halftime but allowed the Hoosiers to pour in 57 second-half points en route to an 86-68 win. 


Coach Bill Frieder

Orr’s squad carried the momentum into the following season by capturing another Big Ten title. Alas, a crew led by future pros Phil Hubbard and Rickey Greene was upset by UNC-Charlotte in the Elite Eight.


Bill Frieder, an assistant under Orr, took over in 1980 and -following a few down years- built the program back to a national power. There was an NIT title in 1984 with a win over rival Notre Dame and a return to the NCAA Tournament in 1985.


That appearance was the first of six straight in the Big Dance for the Wolverines, since stars such as Roy Tarpley, Gary Grant, Glen Rice, and Loy Vaught gave Frieder a boatload of talent. After three straight second-round exits, the 1987-88 edition reached the Sweet 16, setting the stage for a dream campaign the following season, even if it came with some awkwardness near the end.


With Rice finishing out a remarkable four-year career with a scoring average of 25.6 points, Vaught and Terry Mills providing toughness and skill inside, and a point guard by the name of Rumeal Robinson, the 1988-89 Wolverines were loaded. 


They didn’t dominate all season, though, losing a stunner to Alaska-Anchorage in a holiday tournament and sitting at 7-5 in Big Ten play following a loss to Indiana on February 19. Michigan then turned it on, winning five of their last six regular-season contests and piling up points in bunches. 


Coach Steve Fisher & a Later Scandal

Michigan Wolverines team stats pages showed a prolific attack that posted 119 points in a late-season win over Iowa and then averaged 94.3 in racing through their first four victims in the NCAA Tournament. Those four victories didn’t come under Frieder, however, as he had already accepted a job with Arizona State for the following season. Athletic director Bo Schembechler ousted Frieder before the tournament, saying he wanted a Michigan man to lead the team in the postseason. That man was assistant Steve Fisher, whose steady hand had helped the Wolverines stay hot.


The impressive run gave them a date with Big Ten rival Illinois in the national semifinals, and an 83-81 win put the Wolverines into the title game against a fellow No. 3 seed, Seton Hall. 


The Kingdome in Seattle saw a memorable encounter. The Wolverines scored the game’s final four points, with Robinson’s two made free throws with three seconds left in overtime, enough for a 79-78 win and the program’s first and only national title.


Fisher would stay on for eight more seasons and guide six of them to the NCAA Tournament, including some with the most heralded recruiting class in college basketball history. The Fab Five -consisting of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, and Jimmy King- transformed the college basketball landscape upon their entry in 1991.


That star-studded quintet made it to the national title game in both 1992 and 1993, losing both times. The 1993 setback was particularly painful, as Webber committed a mental gaffe by calling a timeout in the closing seconds that his team did not have, thus allowing North Carolina to use a technical foul and seal the game at the line.


While this era was memorable due to some great moments with some outstanding talent, it was washed away amid a scandal involving a booster who gave loans to several players, including Webber. Many of the tournament appearances and records were vacated by the NCAA and it took several years for the program to dig itself out of the mess.


John Beilein, who took over for former Duke star Tommy Amaker in 2007, helped complete that process. He led the Wolverines to the 2009 NCAA Tournament, ending a 10-year drought and pushing the team to national title appearances in 2013 and 2018. They both ended in losses, though, which left Michigan with a 1-6 record in championship games.


Howard took over when Beilein went to the NBA in 2019 and he’s guided the team to at least two NCAA Tournament wins in each of its last three appearances. NCAAB odds are now consistently in favor of the Wolverines’ success and betting tips suggest siding with Howard’s crew in 2022-23.

All-Time Records

  • Points Scored

    • Glen Rice: 2,442

    • Mike McGee: 2,439

    • Louis Bullock: 2,224


  • Rebounds

    • Rudy Tomjanovich: 1,039

    • Bill Buntin: 1,037

    • Loy Vaught: 993


  • Assists

    • Gary Grant: 731

    • Zavier Simpson: 667

    • Rumeal Robinson: 575


  • Wins

    • John Beilein: 278

    • Johnny Orr: 209

    • Bill Frieder: 189


  1. What Is the Highest Win Total in Program History?


One of six times that the Wolverines were national runners-up was 2017-18, when they won a program-record 33 games.


  1. What Was the Worst Season in Program History?


The worst winning percentage in Michigan history belongs to the 1959-60 squad that went 4-20. More recently, a downturn took place in John Beilein’s first season at the helm, in 2007-08 (10-22).


  1. Who Is the Greatest Player in Program History?


Glen Rice is the team’s all-time leading scorer and was the star of the only national title squad in 1989, when he set an NCAA Tournament record for points with 184. If that’s not enough, Rice is also third in Michigan history in field-goal percentage and sixth in rebounds.


He was a three-time All-Star in the NBA and won an NBA title with the 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers.

Back to top button

Bet like a PRO!

Subscribe now and get Weekly Expert Free Picks