Friday, April 5, 2013


Tomorrow, the Michigan Wolverines will make their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament's Final Four in 20 years.

They had a chance to return to the Final Four the following year, but they lost to my alma mater, the University of Arkansas. They haven't been back since.

A lot of attention has been paid this week to Wichita State, which is back in the Final Four for the first time in nearly half a century. Having the spotlight shine on someone else might be something of a relief for Michigan, given what happened the last time the Wolverines played in the Final Four.

On this night two decades ago, Michigan faced North Carolina in the championship game in New Orleans. It was a close game, competitive, definitely entertaining for the fans, but it is almost certainly remembered for a single moment in the final seconds.

Michigan's Chris Webber had the ball and tried to call a timeout. Unfortunately for him, Michigan was out of timeouts. That meant a technical foul was assessed against Michigan. Game over.

Until that point, Webber had been having a pretty decent game. He led all Michigan players in scoring with 23 points, and he was second only to North Carolina's Donald Williams (by two points) among all players.

And, in the end, he was named to the All–Tournament Team along with Williams and two other North Carolina players.

But then it was learned that he had received under–the–table payments from a booster, and Michigan had to vacate its entire 1992–93 season.

And the Wolverines haven't been seen in the Final Four since that night — well, until now.

It was the last gasp of Michigan's Fab Five, the nickname given to the 1991 recruiting class that took the program to consecutive national championship games in 1992 and 1993.

The memory that lingers from the '92 tournament has nothing to do with Michigan. That tournament is remembered for the epic East Regional final between Duke and Kentucky, won in overtime by Duke. Duke went on to beat Michigan in the championship game.

The '93 tournament is remembered mostly for Webber's faux pas. The two are so closely linked that my guess is Webber's mistake will be mentioned in the first paragraph of his obituary.


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