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Sunday, March 30, 2014
Better Fab Five: Michigan or Kentucky?

By Jonathan McDonald, ESPN Stats & Information

The Kentucky Wildcats are starting to resemble a rather famous group of freshmen that made noise in the NCAA tourney. That’s right, the Fab Five.

The numbers show these two squads are more similar than you would think. Making it even more fitting is Kentucky will face Michigan on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

The question left is if the Wildcats freshmen will be able to finish what those Wolverines couldn’t and win a national title.

Both Kentucky's Fab Five and Michigan's Fab Five started exactly 15 games together as a unit. Kentucky is 11-4 when all five freshmen start (Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, James Young, Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson), while Michigan finished 12-3 when the Fab Five started together.

Kentucky's Fab Five has been slightly more productive and efficient in terms of scoring, largely because of the 3-point line. The Michigan Fab Five was more dominant on the boards and shot a much better percentage from the floor.

Wildcats power forward Randle has comparable numbers to Chris Webber’s freshman season. Both were top-three recruits and averaged roughly 15 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting over 50 percent from the floor during their first seasons.

The similarities don't end with just the players. The teams as a whole are near-mirror images in the tournament:

• Both Kentucky this year and Michigan in 1992 were underdogs according to seeding, with the Wildcats an 8-seed and the Wolverines a 6-seed. Kentucky entered the tourney with 10 losses; Michigan entered with eight losses.

• Both teams had to beat a No. 1 seed during their run. Kentucky took out undefeated Wichita State in the round of 32; Michigan beat an Ohio State team that had swept it in the regular season.

• Not only did they have to beat top seeds, Michigan and Kentucky also had to beat their rivals. The Wolverines beat hated Ohio State and Kentucky defeated Louisville for the second time this season.

• Michigan and Kentucky both were not dominant in the tournament. The 1992 Wolverines won their first five games by an average of six points per game, with just one double-digit win. The Wildcats have outscored their first three opponents by 4.7 points per game, and their largest win was by seven points.

Katie Sharp contributed to this post.