'Ask Nick!' answered: Is this Michigan team better than the Fab Five? Chris Webber's disassociation info
ANN ARBOR -- When discussing raw entertainment and excitement, few Michigan basketball teams over the years matched what Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson brought to the table as Fab Fivers between 1991-93.
In terms of talent and ability, they're often looked at as a high-water mark in recent Michigan history -- though I would argue the 1988-89 national title team has a pretty big beef with that.
But, in any event, even though their banners have been removed -- fans often like to compare the Fab Five group to just about every hot new team in college basketball, whether it resides in Ann Arbor or not.
So, why not compare Steve Fisher's brash bunch to the current 2012-13 Wolverines, ranked No. 2 in the country at 14-0.
That's where our mailbag begins this week:
Question: I believe this team will win a BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP. This team is as talented and as good as the FAB FIVE. So my question Nick is, would you agree with my assessment? -- wwjd10
A: Well, wwjd, I personally think it's too early to tell overall -- but my gut says that in terms of pure talent and ability, no, it's not.
And here's why.
That team had a top overall NBA draft pick (Chris Webber), a lottery top five pick (Juwan Howard) and a borderline lottery pick (Jalen Rose) in its starting lineup. This group might not have one lottery pick on its roster.
The '92-93 team had five NBA picks in total on its roster -- Webber, Howard, Rose, Jimmy King and Eric Riley -- that's a lot.
This team could have five also, as you could make a case for Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary at some point down the road.
Talent is one thing, success is another. The Fab Five team of '92-93 didn't win a Big Ten title, but it did make the NCAA title game. This group still can achieve both of those things, and more.
Question: Chris Webber's ban is over in 2013, right? -- awchi4
A: You're correct.
The disassociation period for all the athletes -- Webber, Louis Bullock, Maurice Taylor and the late Robert Traylor -- involved in the scandal began on May 8, 2003. It was part of the NCAA's imposed sanctions on the program.
So, in May of 2013 -- after this season has ended -- the ban will be lifted.
But if you're expecting Chris Webber to spend time shooting hoops in the PDC on May 9, you're probably being foolish. Plenty of work to do there before all's well again, or so it seems.
But, technically, Michigan could display photos and signage of Webber and the rest of those players once that period is over. Right now, it can't.
Question: Who leaves (for the NBA after) this season besides Trey Burke? Hardaway? Glenn Robinson III? I hope not! -- Aaron Franchi
A: The easiest answer to that question, right now, is that there's really one semi-lock there, and that's Burke.
Given the season he's having, and given how close he came to leaving last year, I'd consider it a near shock if he opted to return for his junior season. Honestly, he looks ready right now. And if he's ready, John Beilein and company should give him their full blessing and encourage him to take the next step in his career -- if he wishes.
Hardaway and Robinson are trickier, to me. Burke plays a premium position at point guard, and in today's game, that's huge -- NBA teams drool over point guards, and will pick them higher than more talented players at other positions at times. They're that important.
Hardaway and Robinson are 6-foot-6 slashers -- something the NBA is overrun with. They don't play that premium spot, so it'll likely be a bit harder.
Robinson intrigues people right now with his freakish athleticism and his young age -- he's still growing. I've seen ESPN's Chad Ford list him as a fringe first-round prospect, but most likely a second-rounder if he decides to leave.
If Hardaway decides to leave, he'd probably also be a fringe first-rounder -- more likely a second rounder right now. And, never say never on anyone else -- if Nik Stauskas keeps evolving and hitting shots like this, his name will enter a conversation or two as well.
As we say -- this is all part of today's college basketball. You want talent? You've got to deal with this stuff, too.
Question: Do you see Mitch McGary cracking the starting lineup anytime this season? -- Sean Lutz
A: Hey Sean, honestly no, I don't. Jordan Morgan had a 12-point, 13-rebound game Thursday night at Northwestern -- he's playing at a really high level right now.
I think Beilein loves the rotation as it is right now -- with McGary coming off the bench early in the game for Morgan. And, if he starts McGary and Morgan at the same time, he'd have to take Robinson or Stauskas out of the starting lineup.
And that's just not going to happen right now.
Question: Nick, there is talent, size, strength, smarts, coaching and then the intangible. M has a team for sure. The intangible I call crazed desire, in this case the team. Do you think M has the "crazed desire" to get done? -- CallThemFair
A: Crazed desire. I like that term.
I think Trey Burke has exactly what you're talking about, and I think that trickles down to the rest of the team. Tim Hardaway Jr. has a bit of it, too.
Nik Stauskas thinks he's the best shooter in the country, Glenn Robinson III isn't intimidated by anything.
These guys came here to win games, and to win titles. They didn't come here to rebuild. So, I'd say, yeah, I think this team has a bit of that going on right now.
Question: My question Nick, is between the Spartans, Hoosiers, and Buckeyes, which team does Michigan have the best chance of stealing one on the road? I'm leaning towards the Buckeyes. -- crisprock01 (Also along the same lines: Now that Ohio State has 2 losses on the year, do you still feel as if they'll beat us, or will we be able to grind it out? --Zaid Khan
A: I'm right with you on that one, crisp. Michigan plays at Ohio State a week from Sunday -- and not only is Value City Arena the least intimidating of all three of the venues you just mentioned, but I think the Buckeyes might be the better matchup for Michigan on the road.
Assembley Hall is ridiculous, and Tom Izzo would rather saw off his own leg than lose to Michigan at home -- you don't get that at Ohio State.
Plus, this might be Trey Burke's last trip into Columbus as a college player -- I'm betting he'll be ready to do some damage to the team that passed on him in recruiting.
To your point, Zaid, if you've got a knife to my back to make a prediction right now -- I say Michigan beats the Buckeyes in Columbus next week. I just think Michigan's a better team right now.
Question: MSU already lost to Minnesota and Indiana winning a close one at Iowa, do you think MSU and Indiana are not that strong this year or Minnesota and Iowa are that good? Do you think Michigan is above the rest of the Big Ten teams as the preseason record and ranking suggest? Also, my original question of Michigan winning the Big Ten and the national championship still stands, but you could answer them in Feb or even March. -- xtr
A: X, you got it, I'll get on that one in February.
As for the first part: I think Minnesota is really legit. The Golden Gophers are going to be a very, very tough team to beat on the road this season -- extremely athletic bunch.
I think Iowa's an up and coming team, and one that will surprise a few more teams before the year is out. I don't think I'd want to play at Iowa in late February.
As for Indiana and Michigan State? The Hoosiers will be fine. Iowa was out for blood in that one, and Indiana survived it. A win's a win on the road in this league, no matter what.
Michigan State: The Spartans still need to figure a few things out. I think they need to let their playmakers play more (Appling, Harris, Dawson) and stop pounding the ball inside so much. But that's just me. If they find a balance, they'll be tough, as usual, in March.
As always, thanks to everyone that participated this week.
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