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Posted on Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan vs. Duke game comes in middle of Fab Five controversy, but nobody wants to talk about it

By Rich Rezler

CHARLOTTE -- The chant was inevitable.

“We want Duke,” Michigan basketball fans at Time Warner Arena called out in the closing minutes of the Wolverines’ stunningly easy win over Tennessee on Friday. “We want Duke.”

Today, Michigan gets that shot at the No. 1-seeded Blue Devils.

And the matchup couldn’t come at a more intriguing time, considering the war of words some of the programs’ historic figures have had over the past week.

Former Michigan players Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson spoke freely of their hate of the Duke program in the Fab Five documentary aired on ESPN last Sunday. A segment filled with name calling particularly hit a nerve when Rose said Duke only recruited “Uncle Tom” black players.

Former Blue Devil Grant Hill called the comments “insulting and ignorant” in a response published on the New York Times’ website while his old teammates, Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner, have publicly questioned the Fab Five’s place in college basketball history.

When the teams meet again today (2:45 p.m. CBS), there will only be one person on the sidelines that can speak first-hand about the day Hill and Co. blasted a brash young group of Michigan freshmen, 71-51, in the 1992 championship game.

And Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski isn’t talking about the old days.

"We're coaching against a great university, a great coach and this team," Krzyzewski said Saturday. "(The documentary) really has absolutely nothing to do with this game. This is my 101st NCAA game. Do you think I need motivation from a documentary?"


Michigan's Stu Douglass isn't concerned about questions regarding how the Fab Five felt about Duke. "We're looking forward to playing the Duke team now. You know, it was a great rivalry in the past, great history, and it's a new day." file photo

Michigan coach John Beilein insists he's paid little attention to the documentary and the ensuing controversy, saying he's been living inside a vacuum since his team was selected to play in the NCAA tournament hours before the Fab Five aired.

Zack Novak and Stu Douglass both tried to shift some of the focus of a game against Duke away from the past -- the juniors were 2 years old when the teams met in the NCAA final -- and put it on this year's matchup.

"That was something that happened 20 years ago," Novak said. "Right now we’re just thinking about present day Duke versus present day Michigan. All the other stuff is really off to the side."

Said Douglass: “All that stuff coming out, we’ve got a lot of questions about that. But we’re looking forward to playing the Duke team now. You know, it was a great rivalry in the past, great history, and it’s a new day.”

It is a new day, but just like on April 6, 1992, another young Michigan (21-13) team is an underdog to the Blue Devils (31-4) and their winningest coach in NCAA tournament history.

Coach K will be looking for career win No. 900 today. Only Bob Knight (902) has won more.

Like they have all season, Michigan’s frontcourt will face a significant size disadvantage against Duke’s 6-foot-8 senior Kyle Singler, 6-10 sophomore Mason Plumlee and 6-10 junior Miles Plumlee.

That trio averages 28 points and 20 rebounds, but Michigan’s performance against a bigger Tennessee team caught Miles Plumlee’s attention.

“They look like they’re really physical and play really aggressive on defense,” he said. “They’re going to get after us and they can really shoot the ball, so we’re going to have to sharpen our defensive matchups.”

Senior guard Nolan Smith leads the Blue Devils with a 21.3-point scoring average and freshman guard Kyrie Irving returned to the Duke lineup in its 87-45 win over Hampton, scoring 14 points in his first game in three months after recovering from a toe injury.

Like those Michigan fans’ chant suggested, everybody looks forward to a shot at Duke. Hampton coach Edward Joyner Jr. knows it, too.

“You know, I think everybody - every college team - sits (and watches) TV and says ‘I want to play Duke. I want to see what it’s like to play Duke,’” Joyner said after his team’s 42-point loss Friday. “We surely found out.”

Michigan junior Zack Novak, meanwhile, wasn’t interested in looking back at the relevance of the Wolverines’ win over Tennessee or too deeply into the all the side stories involved with the upcoming opponent.

“Right now we’re just having so much fun, we want to keep this going,” he said. “I mean, I don’t think right now is the time to be getting nostalgic about it.

“We’re going to go back like we do after every game and learn from it and see what we can do better and get ready to go after whoever we’re playing next.”

Rich Rezler covers sports for Contact him at 734-623-2553 or



Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

Now that I've read more, it's possible that the context of Jalen's comments were slightly different from what I thought. Still, I stand by the fact that the fab five did not represent this school in the manner that was expected and have no place in the history of Michigan sports. Enough said.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

The Fab Five are no longer relevant and have nothing to do with this game. Why would anyone want to talk about it?

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

I watched the documentary and enjoyed reminiscing. I don't see what it has to do with today's game, except for Krzyzewski personally. And he's too much a professional to make this about him. Duke had some great games here around that time. Overtime classics with and without the Fab Five. I'm sad that's no longer an annual challenge. Jalen needs to understand that he caught an extraordinary break meeting Ed Martin and Perry Watson - that's coming from privilege, too, essentially. And he put in the work and made himself an extraordinary player. I'm glad he's had so much success. But he should have used a little bit more restraint and made sure the documentary wasn't so insulting to Duke. I can't put it any more eloquently than Grant Hill did in the NYT in his response, but Jalen was way off base.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

No one wants to talk about it because most of us in the public do not care. Immature comments from when most of the players in today's matchup were still in diapers turned into hyperbole and soundbites by the press. If the Fab-5 had won a few NCs then maybe; but the "greatest recruiting class of all time" certainly underachieved when it mattered.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

NC Wolverine and A2Wolverine, You OBVIOUSLY are under the misapprehension that most of people who comment on have the first idea of what they are talking about. Nothing could be further from the truth. Good Night and Good Luck

Jim Nazium

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

The whole Fab-Five thing has NO Relevance to this game, with the only common denominator being Coach K. I am grateful that we made it this far and get to play one of the best on a national stage. I am also grateful that we have a fantastic coach and a fine group of kids who are finally getting it ( coach B's system ) and winning because of it. I am hopeful that we can pull this thing off and however it ends, show the world that we have one of the Classiest programs in College basketball, nothing like the Fab-Five days. I admit, I was their age when they played and they were fun to watch and all, but as a grown man now, I would have a hard time putting up with their selfishness and disrespect. GO BLUE!!!


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

I loved watching and following the fab 5. That was arguably the most exciting team to play in Chrysler arena. For those two years having Michigan Basketball season tickets was a special prize. This has been a special season to watch as well, I'm looking forward to todays game between Michigan and Duke, I like our chances. I hope, like the rest of our season, we overachieve and advance to the sweet 16. Go Blue.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 2:39 p.m.

semperveritas, winning TWO national semi-final in TWO years is like your sister one year, then kissing another sister the next year. Those five players did not win a championship in college or the pros.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

see if you can sell that to the teams that win those games on april 2 in houston------or to their fans or to the talking heads on tv-----or to the people that will watch on cbs. they will all be convinced that those schools won something viable and valuable.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

The comments make it very obvious who has seen the documentary and who hasn't. Jalen's comments were focused on his feelings when he was coming out of high school. He always spoke in the past tense. He singled out Hill to compare and contrast with his life. Hill had two educated parents, one of whom was a former professional athlete. Jalen had a father who was a former professional athlete with whom he had no contact and had to be raised by a single mom. Jalen even described Hill as coming from a "GREAT FAMILY." Jalen also said that he was jealous of Hill. Hill's response completely missed the focus of Jalen's comments. Only using the Uncle Tom comment is misleading and fails to capture the overall sentiment that Jalen was describing as a 20 year younger teen.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

'they have never won anything' that is an example of repeating a lie over and over and it will be taken as fact. the fabs won TWO national semi-final games in TWO years. how many teams have won two national semis? how many have won one ? how many teams dominated by freshmen have won a national semi ----or two? you may not like them, but to say 'they never won anything' is too drewsharplike to be taken seriously.

John of Saline

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

Those results have been vacated. FYI.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

Second place is just the first place loser

NC Wolverine 20

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

This is why the American public is so easy to fool. Just quote one or two controversial words, and the fur flies everywhere. Rose was talking about his own feelings as an immature young man. He was jealous of Duke and its players and bitter that a poor black kid from a single-parent home, such as himself, had no chance of being recruited by Duke. When he made those comments recently, he was not criticizing Duke, he was shedding light on his own attitudes from 20 years ago.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

you got it right ! worded perfectly i might add..


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 12:11 p.m.

so black kids arent true to their race if they go to school ,graduate and learn something?So be a thug or your not a true black person?THE not so Fab Five never won anything but their egos would have you think they were the greatest team of all time......


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 11:56 a.m.

I heard Woody Hayes hit one of his own players once.

John of Saline

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

No, he hit an opposing player. He got fired for it.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 5:12 p.m.

Something that happened so long ago it is no longer relevant. Just like this whole fab five thing.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

HUH ? what are you talking about ?


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

The fab five had and have no class. They're still embarassing my school. I wish they'd just go away. What does that mean anyways, "uncle toms"? That the players went to class? That they followed the rules? I thankful that we have a class coach and class players now.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

If you found Jalen's comments &quot;embarrassing&quot; to your school, then you might benefit from reading the following article. It seems like you've misunderstood and taken those comments out of context. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;src=sp</a> UM Grad '96