Michigan, Cincinnati at a glance

April 04, 1992|By Don Markus

Michigan (24-8) vs. Cincinnati (29-4), 5:42 p.m.

Site: Metrodome, Minneapolis

Outlook: Neither team was expected to get this far. The Wolverines, with an all-freshman starting lineup, were supposed to be too young. The Bearcats, only two years removed from NCAA probation, were supposed to talk better than they played. Michigan grew up quickly, and Cincinnati backed up what it said.

Frontcourt: The edge clearly goes to the Wolverines, with Chris Webber (15.6 ppg, 9.9 rpg), Juwan Howard (11.1 ppg, 6.3 ppg) and underrated Ray Jackson coming of age in the NCAA tournament. Webber gets most of the attention -- think of him as the Big Ten's Rodney Rogers, only more of a take-charge guy -- but Howard is capable of big games. The Bearcats aren't as small as Bob Huggins would make you think, with 6-10 Corie Blount (8.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and 6-10 Jeff Scott coming off the bench. Herb Jones (18.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Terry Nelson are relatively small, but what they lack in size they make up for in quickness and ability on the perimeter. Jones leads the Bearcats in scoring. Nelson, an aspiring stand-up comic, is the defensive stopper.

Backcourt: The edge here, too, goes to Michigan. Jalen Rose (17.9 ppg), at 6-7, is starting to evoke memories of a Michigan State player who became a star at the 1979 Final Four. Rose's backcourt mate, fellow freshman Jimmy King (14.8 ppg), doesn't do as many things, but played extremely well in the Southeast Regional semis and final. Anthony Buford (15.2 ppg) and Nick Van Exel (12 ppg) don't have the same pedigrees as their Wolverines counterpart, but both can hit three-pointers as well as take it inside.

Bench: The Bearcats and Wolverines have deep benches, which allows them to keep their starting lineups fresh and have helped wear down the opposition throughout the tournament. Scott, Tarrance Gibson and Erik Martin key Cincinnati's full-court press, and they could give Michigan some trouble. Michigan's bench is full of experienced former starters, led by senior center Eric Riley.

Coach: Steve Fisher won a national championship before he officially became the head coach of the Wolverines. Now he proved that he might have had a little more to do with the 1989 title run than previously believed. Huggins is one of the rising stars despite wearing the same ugly brown suit for the past 10 games.

Prediction: The Wolverines might have a bit too much size antalent up front for the Bearcats, but they had close calls against Oklahoma and Ohio State. If they get into foul trouble again, especially Webber, look for the Bearcats to move on to the final. If not, the "Fab Five" should be one game from a possible championship.

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