Michigan Basketball: The Cazzie Years

Colleges across America are once again gripped by March Madness. The University of Michigan Wolverines are in the thick of the NCAA’s annual contest to name the No. 1 men’s college basketball team. The Maize & Blue are seeded fourth in the Midwest.

To celebrate this annual hoopla, the Ann Arbor District Library is offering an opportunity to turn back the clock and experience the triumphs of an earlier Wolverine team, the 1963 ~ 1966 squad coached by Dave Strack and led by All-Americans Cazzie Russell and Bill Buntin.

The ups and downs of the three-time Big Ten champions was chronicled in the Ann Arbor News, especially in the passionate reporting of Wayne DeNeff. These articles are available online through the Old News site, presenting the dramatic story of a great team anchored by two outstanding players. Buntin set an all-time school scoring record, only to see it broken by his teammate Russell the following year.

The 1964 team made it to the Final Four, falling to Duke in the semifinal. The 1965 team had no losses going into its final Big Ten game before losing to bitter rival Ohio State, but they were named the No. 1 team in America by AP and UPI. The team went on to run through the NCAA playoffs with wins against Dayton and Vanderbilt. In the semifinal game they beat Ivy League champion Princeton and that year’s player of the year Bill Bradley. They lost in the final to the UCLA Bruins, another victim of John Wooden’s record-setting 1960s basketball juggernaut. At the time only 23 teams competed in the playoffs and only one team could compete per conference. Russell was named 1966 player of the year. Russell and Buntin had strong support from Oliver Darden, Larry Tregoning, George Pomey and other excellent players.

The News stories provide a glimpse of college basketball in a less frenzied media atmosphere, presented with behind the scenes atmosphere, drama and heart.

To see all the articles and photographs about the Cazzie years, click here.

AADL recently interviewed one of the Wolverine’s big players from the 1964 and 1965 championship runs, George Pomey. George took on some of the toughest guard assignments in NCAA basketball history. His stories of student life, sports in a different era and how the team has remained close over the years is not to be missed.

While researching the Wolverine's 1964 ~ 1966 NCAA Championship runs we came across another bit of Michigan history, the debut of longtime Men's Glee Club director Philip A. Duey's fight song, Go Blue! Read articles on Mr. Duey's amazing song, his career at Michigan and even hear an excerpt of the song.