Heads Up: Michigan's Fab Five vs. Kentucky's Fantastic Four

        On paper, the similarities don't jump out at you.  But maybe it's time to start comparing the University of Michigan's "Fab Five" team to the 2009-2010 Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky's freshman class has the potential to make as much of an impact as the 1992 Michigan Wolverine freshmen.

        The Fab Five was considered by some to be the greatest recruiting class ever assembled; all five members were ranked among the top 100 of the 1992 recruiting class, and four of the five were ranked in the top ten of the class; Chris Webber (1), Juwan Howard (3), Jalen Rose (6), Jimmy King (9), Ray Jackson (84).  The 2009 Kentucky class has a similar composition.  Kentucky has the top two players in the class, John Wall (1), and DeMarcus Cousins (2), followed by three more players in the Top 40- Daniel Orton (22), Eric Bledsoe (23) and Jon Hood (40) (rivals.com).  So the recruiting numbers stack up in favor of Kentucky, but is that where the similarities stop?

        The 1992 Michigan Wolverines were known as much for their play as for their trash talking and baggy shorts, bringing "hip hop flavor" to basketball. "They ran the floor with playground joy and swagger, slapping hands and bumping chests and talking. Always talking". The 2009 Wildcat freshman are making an impact too with their run-and-gun offense featuring an alley-oop aerial attack and high-flying acrobatics. Any chance the Wildcats get, one of their two point guards will grab the ball, and sprint up court before unleashing a SportsCenter Top-10-like ball move, finishing with a thunderous dunk or alley-oop.  So maybe the Kentucky Wildcats weren't the first to play with such flair and style, but the team's approach to the game is quite similar to that of the early '90s Wolverines.

        When comparing the players and production alone, Kentucky's freshmen class holds their own against Michigan's Fab Five. Led by Chris Webber's double-double average, the Fab Five combined for 58 points, 26 rebounds and 12 assists per game. Kentucky's "Fantastic Four" combines for 48 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists per game, led by National Player of the Year candidate, John Wall. So statistically speaking, Michigan's Fab Five holds the production advantage over Kentucky's Fantastic Four; if we were to add in a fifth Kentucky player of average ability, the numbers would be almost identical. But do Kentucky's freshmen stand out more than Michigan's? In the 1992 season, the Wolverines produced zero All-Americans, while this year's Kentucky Wildcat team looks like a mid-season lock with John Wall. Center DeMarcus Cousins is also making a strong case for All-American.

        Sure the Wildcats don't start five freshmen like the early '92 Wolverines, but they do start three of them, with a fourth as the first man off the bench. The 1992 Michigan team wouldn't have featured five freshmen if they didn't have three players declare for the 1990 NBA Draft the year before. If Patrick Patterson stayed in the 2009 NBA Draft, he would have likely been selected in the first round and as a result, freshman forward/center Daniel Orton would have been thrust into Kentucky's frontcourt. As it stands, the Wildcats eight-man rotation features four freshmen, three sophomores and one junior, about the same average-age of the '92 Wolverine rotation.

        The Wolverines started five freshmen and turned their 14-15 program into a 24 game winner the next season. The Wildcats won 22 games last season, and have nearly matched that total already in 2009-2010 with the midway point of the season just behind us. Only time will tell how much of an impact the 2009-2010 Kentucky freshmen will have compared to the 1991-92 Michigan Fab Five; whether we look at player production, team wins or lasting impact, freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton look to attain the title of best recruiting class in college basketball history this season.  

Written by Corey Ruff - NBA-Draft.com President - 1--21--10