Despite losing three of five games heading into the NCAA Tournament, Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines earned the No. 1 seed in the East Region of the 2021 edition of the “Big Dance,” marking the first time in 28 years that the program has been a top seed. And who was one of the top players on that No. 1 Wolverines squad back in 1993? Well, Juwan Howard, of course, who was a sophomore that season Michigan last earned a top seed and went on to the national title game, which the “Fab Five” famously lost to North Carolina.
But we’re not here to dwell on the infamous Chris Webber timeout. No, this is a simple piece to celebrate the truly amazing feat that Howard will accomplish the moment his Wolverines take the floor on Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette against either Mount St. Mary’s or Texas Southern, who will square off in a play-in game on Thursday for the right to face Michigan.
And just what is this amazing accomplishment? Let’s get to it.
Juwan Howard and the ‘Fab Five’ Michigan Wolverines were the No. 1 seed in the West Region of the 1993 NCAA Tournament
Following a runner-up finish in the 1992 NCAA Tournament, Juwan Howard and the rest of the “Fab Five” Michigan Wolverines came into the 1992-1993 season with a lot of expectations. Howard, Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson had made history as freshmen and came into their sophomore season hoping to finish what they’d started the previous year. And they certainly put themselves in a great position to do so leading into March Madness.
Michigan went 26-4 in the regular season, losing only to opponents ranked 11th or better, and earned the No. 1 seed in the West Region of the 1993 NCAA Tournament, marking just the second time in history that the program had earned a top seed. The Wolverines then ousted Coastal Carolina, UCLA, George Washington, Temple, and Kentucky on their way to the national title game, where they lost to North Carolina, 77-71.
As for Juwan Howard, he had a fantastic 1992-1993 campaign, averaging 14.6 points on 50.6% shooting while also adding 7.4 rebounds per game.
He returned to the Michigan Wolverines in 2019
Following his three-year run with the Michigan Wolverines as a player, Juwan Howard played 19 years in the NBA with eight teams, his last three with the Miami Heat, with whom he won two titles alongside the “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
He was essentially a player-coach during his final season in 2012-2013 and remained with the franchise after retiring as a player. Howard spent six seasons as an assistant to Erik Spoelstra before returning to Michigan in 2019 to become the head coach of the Wolverines following the departure of John Beilein.
Howard led Michigan to a 19-12 overall record and a 10-10 mark in the Big Ten in his first season, which left the Wolverines on the bubble before the season was shut down due to COVID-19. But there was certainly no bubble chatter this year as Howard & Co. went 20-4 overall and 14-3 in conference play to capture the program’s first Big Ten regular-season title in seven years.
The Wolverines stumbled a bit down the stretch and lost a heartbreaker to Ohio State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tourney but their overall body of work was good enough to earn them a No. 1 seed in the East in the NCAA Tournament, a region that also includes Alabama, Texas, and Florida State.
Juwan Howard will be the first person to play for and coach a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament
As mentioned, the top-seeded Michigan Wolverines will take on the winner of Thursday’s play-in game between Mount St. Mary’s and Texas Southern in the round of 64, which will take place at 3:00 p.m. Eastern this Saturday at Mackey Arena, the home of the Purdue Boilermakers, in West Lafayette, Indiana.
And as soon as the ball is tipped, Juwan Howard will become the first person in NCAA Tournament history to play for a No. 1 seed and be the head coach for a No. 1 seed, which is pretty remarkable.
He’s also just the fourth head coach to earn a No. 1 seed in his first NCAA Tournament appearance and the first since North Carolina’s Bill Guthridge in 1998.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference