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NCAA Tournament Notes : Despite Michigan’s Success, Fisher’s Job Remains in Limbo

<i> Times Staff Writers </i>

A Michigan victory over Seton Hall tonight in the Kingdome would make Steve Fisher, the Wolverines’ interim coach, the first rookie to guide a team to the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. men’s basketball championship.

But would it remove the interim from his title?

Bo Schembechler won’t say.

“He’s done a great job, a wonderful job, and we’re very pleased,” the Michigan athletic director told reporters outside the locker room Saturday night after the Wolverines’ 83-81 semifinal victory over Illinois, “but let’s wait until Monday night (before) we talk about anything else.”

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Fisher, 44, was an anonymous assistant until March 15, when his former boss, Bill Frieder, announced on the eve of the NCAA tournament that he had accepted an offer to coach at Arizona State.

Schembechler replaced Frieder immediately rather than let him coach the Wolverines in the tournament.

Michigan hasn’t lost since.

“I’ve never heard of an undefeated coach getting fired,” Michigan forward Terry Mills said.

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It could happen this week.

Frieder, who watched Saturday night’s game on television from his Seattle hotel room, said he hadn’t decided if he would attend tonight’s game. “I don’t want anything to detract from the players,” he said. “I don’t want to be besieged by the media. But I’d like to go as a fan, a Michigan alumnus and a former coach. I have strong feelings. I love them all.”

Most coaches favor Seton Hall to end Fisher’s ride.

“They’ve successfully kicked the living . . . out of (Bob) Knight, (Jerry) Tarkanian and (Mike) Krzyzewski,” UCLA’s Jim Harrick said of the Pirates, who beat Indiana, Nevada Las Vegas and Duke in their last three games. “I like The Hall.”

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However, Terry Holland of Virgina, whose team lost to Michigan, 102-65, last week in the Southeast Regional final, said of the Wolverines: “If they shoot well, they can stay with anyone, including some NBA teams.”

Michigan has made 56.9% of its shots this season. The NCAA record is 57.2%, established by Missouri in 1980.

Coach P.J. Carlesimo of Seton Hall said that, in terms of style, Syracuse is the only team in the Big East that would compare to Michigan. Would the same things work against both teams?

“Nothing worked against Syracuse,” Carlesimo said. “We haven’t made a dent against Syracuse. I think we’re oh-for-the-decade.”

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Seton Hall has lost 18 consecutive games to the Orangemen and has beaten them only once in 21 meetings since the Big East was formed in 1979.

What’s the secret to guarding Michigan’s Glen Rice?

Sean Higgins said it’s footwork.

“He runs you through screens--it’s like bumper pool,” said the Wolverines’ sixth man, who frequently shadows Rice in practice. “I told him, ‘I can’t guard you.’ He said, ‘You have to learn to dance through.’

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“So, I learned to dance.”

Rice, who is averaging 30.6 points a game in the tournament, needs 25 points tonight to break the tournament record of 177, which was established in 1965 by Bill Bradley of Princeton.

Seton Hall was picked to finish seventh in the Big East.

“I think you’ve got to understand that the intelligence factor of the other eight coaches in our league is not terribly high,” Carlesimo joked.

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He said the depth and balance of the Pirates hurts them in terms of individual recognition.

“People don’t understand how talented these people are,” Carlesimo said of his players. “We have more good players than anybody in the country. That’s why we’re here. Their individual talents are overshadowed a little by the fact that they’re a pretty good team.”

During his team’s 95-78 victory over Duke Saturday, Seton Hall center Ramon Ramos was mistakenly introduced over the public-address system as Ramon Rivas.

Rivas, who played last season at Temple, is a former boyhood teammate of Ramos, who is from Canovanas, Puerto Rico.

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“He’s a good friend--we know each other very well,” Ramos said. “But I like to be called by my own name.”


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