The Time is Right for a Fab Five Reunion

With Michigan in the title game, attention turns to their last title contenders

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Apr 8, 2013  |  Updated 11:57 AM EDT
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The Time is Right for a Fab Five Reunion

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When Michigan's basketball team advanced to the title game by beating Syracuse in Atlanta on Saturday night, there wasn't much doubt that we'd be hearing about the Fab Five during the run up to the game. 

We should do one better: We should see them. With a new group of young Michigan basketball players vying for a national title, now is the time for the Fab Five to reunie.

The last time Michigan played in the final college basketball game of the year they were led by the five brash, young sophomores, making their second straight appearance in the title game: Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King. A year earlier, the all-freshmen lineup earned the nickname Fab Five.

The Fab Five lost in the finals to Duke in 1992 and then lost again to North Carolina in 1993. But those losses couldn't change the fact that the Fab Five had a monumental impact on college basketball. 

Baggy uniforms and groups of freshmen playing outsize roles on title contenders were rare before the Fab Five, but they've become such an ingrained part of the game that it is hard to remember a time before they were taken for granted.

With time to kill before the game against Louisville starts on Monday night, it seemed like the perfect moment for the CBS cameras to find the erstwhile Fab Five as they root on the freshman stars that have helped propel this year's team. 

Alas, things aren't always so rosy. Webber, the most Fab of the Five, has had nothing to do with Michigan for a decade as a result of sanctions handed down after Webber was found to have lied about receiving improper benefits while he was in Ann Arbor. 

The Final Four banners came down at Crisler Arena, and Webber's records were stricken from the books, leaving Webber hurt and wanting nothing to do with the school. With the basketball team finally back in the spotlight, there's a push on to change that. 

Rose did a podcast with his ESPN counterpart Bill Simmons on Grantland.com on Sunday, calling for Webber to join his teammates in Atlanta (Webber's current residence) for the game on Monday night. The plea's been picked up on Twitter as fans of Michigan and basketball in general plead for a chance to see one of the game's most memorable teams together again after such a long time apart. 

Webber's offered no indication that he'll be at the game, but hasn't said anything about missing it either, so the watch will remain on until there's some kind of confirmation either way.

Here's hoping that he finds a way to get there for the game,

The first thing mentioned about the Fab Five now is the ugly way it wound up playing out - sanctions, forfeited wins, removed banners. That's part of the story -- as is the fateful timeout Webber called in the final seconds of the loss to Carolina when Michigan didn't have any left --  but it isn't the whole story. Not by a long shot. 

The real story was the way the five freshmen burst onto the scene like a supernova, unwilling to be patient and wait their turn to succeed like just about every other freshman in the history of basketball before them. It was their bravado and the way they backed it up with a free-flowing, highly entertaining brand of basketball that belied their limited years. 

We watch basketball to see players and teams like that. We remember them because they come around so rarely that they should be savored. A reunion while watching another generation of Wolverines trying to take that final step on the ladder -- the step that eluded the Fab Five 20 years ago -- would make it about the basketball again, and it would give the Fab Five one more moment to bask in the adulation they deserve. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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