Michigan Basketball: How Does 2013 Squad Stack Up Against Fab Five?

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IIFebruary 13, 2013

Michigan Basketball: How Does 2013 Squad Stack Up Against Fab Five?

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    The Michigan Wolverines raced out to the best start in school history earlier this season and have amassed a 21-4 record thus far, which led some of the Maize and Blue faithful to ask, could this team hang with the Fab Five?

    The current Michigan team has yet to compete in the NCAA tournament, but the Wolverines are national title contenders nonetheless and could bring home the championship Chris Webber and Co. never did.

    Not only did the Fab Five make back-to-back national championship game appearances in 1992 and 1993, the class of 1991 sparked a cultural movement and brought a significant amount of attention toward the issue of whether or not college athletes should be paid.

    This slideshow will not assess that impact on the game, but it is going to break down how the Fab Five's frontcourt, backcourt, bench and head coach stack up against this year's Michigan team.

    None of the performances beyond the 1992-93 season by the five legendary Wolverines will be considered since the group was no longer whole after Webber declared for the 1993 NBA draft.

    How would the Fab Five fare against the 2012-13 Michigan squad? Click ahead to find out!

Backcourt

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    The primary reason behind the Michigan Wolverines' resurgence as a basketball program over the past two seasons has been because of their backcourt, which is unquestionably one of the best in the country right now.

    Sophomore point guard Trey Burke is one of the best players in all of college basketball right now, but the undersized scorer would have a hard time handling the length and size of Jalen Rose, who checks in at 6'8".

    Burke and Rose both had the ability to be the top scorers on their respective teams and were able to elevate the play of those around them with savvy distribution. 

    It should be noted though, Burke has done a much better job of taking care of the basketball compared to Rose. Through 25 games, Burke has only committed 47 turnovers and should fall well short of Rose's 113 from the 1992-93 campaign. 

    Considering the dominant big men the Fab Five teams had, shooting guards Jimmy King and Ray Jackson did not need to score in bunches to help Michigan win games.

    The two were remarkably efficient from the field though, and shot close to 50 percent or better in each of their first two seasons in Ann Arbor.

    Conversely, the current group of Wolverines need junior shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and freshman sharp-shooter Nik Stauskas to produce offensively in order to defeat quality opponents.

    Hardaway and Stauskas combine to average 27.5 points per game compared to Jackson's and King's 19.8 points per contest as sophomores.

    Perimeter shooting also falls in favor of the current Wolverines in this matchup. Both of Michigan's shooting guards shoot better than 41 percent from distance, while Jackson never did much damage from three-point range. King never shot more than 100 three-balls in his first two seasons, though he did knock down better than 40 percent of those attempts.

    The trio of Burke, Hardaway and Stauskas are clearly the better backcourt, but this one could have gone the other way if the Fab Five teams needed more production from King and Jackson.

    Edge: 2012-13 Wolverines 

Frontcourt

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    The most obvious discrepancy between the current group of Michigan Wolverines and the two most prominent teams from the Fab Five era is in the frontcourt. This year's team would be completely dominated in the paint by the 1991-92 and 1992-93 teams.

    Chris Webber and Juwan Howard made up one of, if not the best duo of big men in the country during their playing days.

    By far the more dominant player, Webber averaged a double-double (19.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game) during his sophomore year. Howard was no slouch though, and notched just over 14 points and seven rebounds per contest.

    The two were explosive under the basket and threw down more than their fair share of monstrous dunks as underclassmen.

    Defensively, the dynamic duo of Webber and Howard were even more impressive. 

    The two helped set a new school record for blocks (193) during their sophomore seasons, which trumped the 184 blocks the Wolverines had in their previous campaign. That record stood until Michigan managed to swat 200 shots during the 2006-07 season.

    Head coach John Beilein's team would have a hard time slowing down these two bigs with undersized power forward Jordan Morgan and small forward Glenn Robinson III in the starting lineup.

    Even if Mitch McGary or Jon Horford were to start in place of Morgan, the Wolverines would have a tough time slowing down Webber, who could shoot the ball well, in addition to his abilities near the basket.

    Morgan does not impact the game at either end of the floor the way Webber did, and Robinson would not be able to contain Howard in the post defensively. 

    At the offensive end of the floor, Robinson might find some success on backdoor cuts and plays designed for him, but Howard had a lot of range defensively and would not allow the freshman to get any easy opportunities.

    There is no question which one of these squads has the better frontcourt.

    Edge: Fab Five 

Bench

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    The two most prominent Fab Five teams had no shortage of talent coming off of the bench, but the 2012-13 Michigan Wolverines have a couple of impact players of their own that have not been able to crack the starting lineup quite yet. 

    Shooting guard Rob Pelinka and small forward James Voskuil were both dangerous from beyond the arc. Both of the former Wolverines knocked down more than 40 percent of their three-point field goal attempts as seniors.

    Prior to the arrival of the Fab Five, Voskuil started 14 games as a sophomore. The following year, Voskuil found himself in the starting lineup for 14 contests until Ray Jackson took his place in the rotation.

    The original two Fab Five teams also had seven-footer Eric Riley to fill in for Juwan Howard and Chris Webber down low.

    Riley only started three games as an upperclassman, though he did average 5.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and shot close to 60 percent from the field during his final season at Michigan in 1992-93.

    The current group of Wolverines' top reserves are Mitch McGary, Jon Horford, shooting guard Caris LeVert and point guard Spike Albrecht.

    McGary is very similar to Riley, though the latter had far more experience than the former does right now. The Chesterton, Ind. native has slightly better numbers than Riley did (6.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game), which helps the current Wolverines out a bit.

    Horford has been plagued by injuries this season and has not made very much of an impact down low at either end of the floor for Michigan.

    Albrecht and LeVert have been excellent role players for the Wolverines this year, though Pelinka and Voskuil were were much more advanced than their freshmen counterparts.

    Neither McGary nor Riley hold an edge over one another, but the rest of the Fab Five's reserves would get the nod over this year's group.

    Edge: Fab Five 

Coaching

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    Although the Fab Five were a dynamic group of athletes, head coach Steve Fisher made sure all of them played as one. The current crop of Michigan Wolverines have also been the beneficiary of excellent coaching by future Hall of Famer John Beilein.

    Fisher led Michigan to a national title in 1989 after Bill Frieder tendered his resignation prior to the NCAA tournament, and two years later he assembled one of the best recruiting classes in the history of college basketball.

    Right from the get go, Fisher knew he had to make sure the returning players and five incoming freshmen did not become two separate teams. Fisher did this by slowly inserting the various members of the Fab Five into the starting lineup later in the season.

    Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard started all but four games between them as freshmen, but Jimmy King and Ray Jackson both came off of the bench until the midway point of the 1991-92 season.

    The aforementioned factors along with Michigan's balanced offensive strategy enabled Fisher to lead the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA title games in 1992 and 1993. 

    Current head coach John Beilein's approach could not be any more different than Fisher's. The Wolverines constantly spread the floor and rely primarily on perimeter shooting out of the half-court offense.

    Beilein has been known throughout his career for overachieving with very little talent, but Michigan has had a plethora of talent over the past two seasons compared to most of the other teams he has coached throughout his 34 years on the bench.

    Both Beilein and Fisher have been successful at other programs over the course of their careers, which makes this matchup of coaches even more difficult to predict.

    While Beilein may very well lead the Wolverines deep into the NCAA tournament this year, Fisher's resume of a national championship, two Final Fours and an Elite Eight appearance in 1993-94 gives him a slight edge, though.

    Edge: Fab Five 

Conclusion

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    Yes, the 2012-13 Michigan Wolverines could beat the Fab Five if their perimeter shooters were all on fire and they managed to keep the former Maize and Blue stars off of the boards, but the latter is far easier said then done. 

    Chris Webber and Juwan Howard would assert their presences in the paint early and often against a smaller frontcourt of Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan. Not even Mitch McGary or Jon Horford would be able to slow down the Fab Five's duo of power forwards.

    Jalen Rose would have no problems getting his jump shot off over the much smaller Trey Burke, though the latter would be able to hold his own at the offensive end of the floor. Burke's step-back jumper would enable him to shoot over the much larger Rose and it is a shot he makes with regularity.

    Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas would likely outperform their counterparts, but Michigan's current team would have no answer for the Fab Five's dominant bigs.

    Burke and Hardaway would keep the Wolverines in the game for as long as possible, however, the lack of interior defense and athleticism of Webber and Howard would lead the Fab Five to a victory.

    Michigan's current group would hang around until perimeter shots stop falling midway through the second half, and the Fab Five would pull away by keeping the Wolverines out of the paint with regularity.

    Overall Edge: Fab Five