MARSHALL: Michigan Final Four run revives Fab Five memories

4/2/2013

Fab Five memories revived

Fab Five memories revived

Twenty years ago, Michigan's Wolverines lost in the NCAA Championship game to North Carolina, 77-71, on the first Monday of April, 1993.

I was to have been in New Orleans for that major sporting event.

Roy Williams was coaching at Kansas then, and I had been a Lawrence resident since 1984.

As fate would have it, I had just accepted a new job, in of all places, Michigan. The Wolverines were playing Kentucky in one national semifinal while Kansas was playing North Carolina in the other. I was still in Lawrence on that Saturday, watching from my home as the Tar Heels defeated the Jayhawks and the Wildcats fell to the Wolverines.

On that Monday night, I found myself at a sports bar in suburban Detroit, watching the championship game between Michigan and Carolina.

It was an easy game for me to be rooting for the Heels, coached by Kansas native Dean Smith.

Michigan was noted at the time for having a group of players who when they were recruited two seasons prior, became nationally known as the Fab Five.

That 1991 recruiting class (they would be freshmen for the 1991-92 season) included four of the top 10 ranked prep basketball players that year. They were Chris Webber (No. 1), Juwan Howard (No. 3), Jalen Rose (No. 6), Jimmy King (No. 9) and No. 84-ranked Ray Jackson.

Brash, talented, showboats. This group could do it all, and did.

They slam-dunked and hung on the rim. They chest-pounded and fist-pumped. It was in-your-face and to heck with everybody else. They didn't fit the stereotype basketball player or team at that time.

They introduced baggy shorts into the college basketball scene. They were a marketing dream.

You either loved them or despised them.

Being that I was a Kansas alum, a resident of Lawrence and a big Jayhawk fan, it should come as no surprise that I found it easy to root for Carolina in that championship game. I also watched in near silence.

It only served to make my first full day of living in Michigan a happy one when Webber inadvertently called a timeout that Michigan didn't have late in the game and the Wolverines down by just two. The ensuing technical foul enabled Carolina to go on and win the game.

Yep, I was a happy camper with nobody to talk to.

That year was the second consecutive year for the Fab Five to reach the NCAA championship game, only to come up short. They had lost to Duke in the 1992 finals.

Webber turned professional after his sophomore season, leaving four of the group behind. The next year, my first full year of living in Ann Arbor and following Michigan basketball, the Wolverines reached the Elite Eight.

Over the next two decades, Michigan basketball would have fleeting moments of success.

In the late 1990s, the program came under NCAA investigation into illegal money provided to Webber. NCAA probation followed, as well as having to victories deleted and banners removed from Crisler Arena.

I bring up the Fab Five of two decades ago because this year's Michigan edition has three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior in its starting lineup, and they have been mentioned in the same breath as the Fab Five.

Rest assured, this Michigan team might accomplish something the Fab Five never did — winning an NCAA title — but I will tell you, they are not the Fab Five. I'll be watching to see if this group can trump the Fab Five.

Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be emailed at bmarshall@gctelegram.com

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