Ohio State looks to trash cocky Michigan Fab Five talk big, but trail series, 2-0

March 29, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Michigan has a cute nickname, an exhilarating style and an abundance of talent. But the Wolverines have an additional characteristic that sets them apart from the typical basketball team.

They like to talk. A lot.

In the vernacular of the day, they like to talk "trash" to their opponents. And that is in stark contrast to their opponent for today's 4 p.m. Southeast Regional final at Rupp Arena.

By comparison, the Ohio State Buckeyes are quiet, controlled, almost shy. Well, most of them, anyway.

When each team took a turn facing the national media yesterday, Ohio State's Jamaal Brown didn't mind tweaking the nose of the Wolverines.

"As of late, they haven't had any reason to talk to us," Brown said, mindful that the Big Ten champion Buckeyes have beaten Michigan twice this season. "I'm not trying to start anything, but that's a fact.

"They're fresh out of high school. They're still young kids. They have a lot of confidence. That's the Wolves."

Ouch.

As fate would have it, Brown, a senior guard, will be staring into the teeth of Michigan's biggest talker in one of this afternoon's more critical matchups. But Jalen Rose, the Wolverines' exuberant freshman guard, says he talks to opponents just for the fun of it.

"If Chris [Webber, a teammate] blocks somebody's shot, I might go over and say 'got you' to the guy. Anything that keeps the fun in the game."

Rose admits he likes to get under the skin of the enemy, though. He will probe for vulnerable spots, deliver a verbal needle and then wait for the reaction. A long jump-shot attempt by an opponent who is not a good jump shooter tells him he has struck home.

"But it's not all trash at all," he said. "A lot of times I'll just say, 'Good move.' "

Make no mistake, the Wolverines are brash and cocky. It is part of the persona of the Fab Five, the catchy nickname hung on the marvelously talented group of freshmen starters who have driven the Wolverines to a 23-8 season.

It's an ingredient that coach Steve Fisher acknowledges with more than a smidgen of reluctance.

When Fisher replaced his five players at the podium yesterday, he was asked how he managed to keep the Fab Five under control.

"You got a glimpse of the iceberg when they came up here," he said. "I'm afraid to ask what they might have said. [But] they are solid kids. Terrifically talented. Extremely confident. Fearful of nothing."

Especially not the third-ranked and top-seeded Buckeyes (26-5), who have won five in a row over Michigan.

Asked what the Wolverines must do to end that domination, Rose said, "It will take an all-out effort for 40 minutes. If Michigan gives an all-out effort for 40 minutes, we'll win the game."

No. 15 Michigan, the sixth seed in the region, already has exceeded most expectations in a year when freshmen ruled. But not its own. Those expectations won't be satisfied with a Final Four appearance, either.

"We don't plan to stop here," Rose said. "We have to pass through the Elite Eight to get where we want to go. That's the national title."

Said Fisher, "They're confident. Jalen Rose makes good copy. He'll tell you what he thinks, even if he doesn't think that."

Jim Jackson, the Ohio State All-American, doesn't seem bothered by the prospect of playing against the talkative Wolverines.

"This is a game of cockiness," Jackson said. "If you hit a couple of baskets, he'll stop."

The Buckeyes figure to turn the heat on Rose and his backcourt partner, Jimmy King, to keep Michigan from capitalizing on its size.

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