Michigan’s Glen Rice Leads List Of Top Scorers In A Single NCAA Tournament

As we head into the first weekend of March Madness, sports bettors in Michigan are shrugging off the absence of the Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament.

With 67 games to bet on from the First Four through the national title game, Michigan sportsbooks are offering attractive bonus bets for college hoops betting.

In Michigan, this time of year recalls a magical spring when a senior forward showed off his incredible shooting skills to help lead the Wolverines to their most recent NCAA hoops title. The year was 1989, and we’re now almost 35 years from a journey that saw Michigan win a title with a “Michigan man” at the helm, and a Flint high school legend launching long-range bombs that often found their target.

Michigan’s Unlikely 1989 March Madness Run Fueled by Rice’s Historic Scoring Surge

In the spring of 1989, the Michigan Wolverines seemed like a mess. as the regular season came to a close, their head coach, Bill Frieder, answered the call to accept the job with Arizona State. That usually isn’t a problem, but Frieder’s job change became public with his Wolverines still playing. That wouldn’t fly with U of M athletic director Bo Schembechler.

“A Michigan man will coach Michigan,” Schembechler said, as he announced Frieder’s dismissal on the even of the NCAA Tournament.

Schembechler was no-nonsense, old-school, crotchety … whatever you want to say. He didn’t mess around, and he didn’t want to see Frieder on the sidelines for Michigan during the high-profile tournament.

That’s the environment from which Glen Rice went on the biggest scoring binge in the history of March Madness. The senior forward went 5-for-9 from three-point range in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, as Michigan defeated Xavier. Rice scored 23 points, with stoic interim head coach Steve Fisher leading the team. But that was only the beginning. In the second round against South Alabama, Rice scored 36 on an amazing 16-for-25 from the field.

Rice, who starred for Flint Northwestern, was a fantastic long-range jump shooter, emphasis on “jump.” With the extreme elevation of his jump, Rice used his long arms and deadly focus to release the basketball at the apex. His high-arcing shot was so good in 1989 that he almost single-handedly led Michigan to the Final Four.

With Fisher calling the plays in understated fashion as Schembechler’s “Michigan man,” the Wolverines knocked off Big 10 rival Illinois in the Final Four, and proceeded to defeat Seton Hall in the national championship game. Rice scored a combined 59 points.

Rice’s 184 points in Michigan’s six games in the 1989 NCAA Tournament broke a 24-year old record. Now, more than three decades later, Rice’s mark remains on the books. It’s a reminder of one of the most unlikely runs in March Madness history: Michigan galvanized behind an interim coach, yet still shot their way to a title.

In a 2021 interview with former Illinois player Stephen Bardo, Rice explained the 1989 championship run.

“I told the team [before the tournament], I’m going to give it my all, and I expect you all to do the same,” Rice said. He even had a special message for Fisher:

“Just sit back and enjoy the ride,” Rice told his new coach.

All-Time NCAA Tournament Scoring Leaders

Single Tournament Scoring Record

  1. Glen Rice: 184 points (1989 Michigan)
  2. Bill Bradley: 177 points (1965 Princeton)
  3. Elvin Hayes: 167 points (1968 Houston)
  4. Danny Manning: 163 points (1988 Kansas)
  5. Jerry West: 160 points (1959 West Virginia)

Three of these players (Bradley, Hayes, and West) are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Rice averaged 18.3 PPG in 15 NBA seasons.

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a writer and contributor for Michigan Sharp. He is an accomplished author, who has written three books about sports. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He isn't far from the Michigan action, residing near Lake Michigan, where he lives with his daughters.