ST. JOHN'S — ATLANTA -- It was a 40-minute blur of undeniable talent: Michigan 102, East Tennessee State 90. So this is how the Fab Five got its nickname.
"It was almost scary," ETSU guard Rodney English said after yesterday's second-round NCAA tournament game at The Omni. "Personally, I was almost afraid to miss a shot, because they were off to the races."
Scary's the word. As in: These five freshman starters at Michigan are so good, it's scary. Asked where he sees the Fab Five when it matures in two or three years, East Tennessee coach Alan LeForce said, "I see one of them with the Chicago Bulls, one of them with the Lakers; I see two or three [National Basketball Association] lottery picks ... "
Indeed, it will be almost impossible to keep this group together for four years, so Michigan is intent on making the best of its opportunity this season and enjoying its Sweet 16 berth against Oklahoma State Friday in Lexington, Ky.
"I don't think it's raw [talent] anymore," coach Steve Fisher said. "I think we're making pretty good progress as a team."
No kidding. Michigan (26-8) led 50-28 before settling for a 54-34 halftime advantage. East Tennessee made five three-pointers in a row to rally within 64-56 with 13:03 left, but an 11-2 run featuring eight of Jimmy King's 14 points put away East Tennessee (24-7) for good.
"They just whipped us," said LeForce, whose 14th-seeded Buccaneers upset Arizona, 87-80, Friday by making 13 of 25 three-point tries. They managed only 12 of 31 yesterday.
In the second half, the Wolverines displayed their stunning athleticism in the open court, leading to seven dunks in the final 20 minutes.
Forward Chris Webber led Michigan with a career-high 30 points on 12-for-15 shooting, nine rebounds, four blocked shots and two assists. Center Juwan Howard added 23 points and guard Jalen Rose had 19 points and 10 assists. All three are freshmen.
"A lot of people said we wouldn't make it this far," Webber said, "and now we're in the final 16."
At Atlanta, Oklahoma State put on a show of its own, shooting an NCAA tournament-record 80 percent from the field in defeating Tulane, 87-71. Byron Houston and Corey Williams each scored 27 points.