The Fab Five Versus UNLV Simulation From image

2011 March Madness: The Fab Five vs. UNLV

Tark's teams run over Fab Five

By Ryan Fowler -
March 21, 2011

In 1994, a documentary was released that followed the lives of two inner-city Chicago basketball players. No matter your ethnic or cultural heritage -- if basketball were life and the rest just details, the film "Hoop Dreams" spoke to you. Whether they knew it or not at the time, the two protagonists with a jump shot, Arthur Agee and William Gates, were surely influenced in some way by two of the nation's top programs in the four years prior to Hoop Dreams' theatrical release.

In a matter of 48 hours two weekends ago, two documentaries cracked open a time capsule that contained influential stories that shaped those programs. The narratives brought back memories and transported us to the late 1980s and early 1990s when UNLV and Michigan were on the verge of redefining college basketball.

Jerry Tarkanian's Runnin' Rebels were first on the scene. But unlike today, when you can see dozens of college games each week, UNLV's dominance was unknown to many as it built a dynasty in the desert. In the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons, the Rebels won 69 games and only lost six. They won the 1990 NCAA tournament behind a 30-point dismantling of Duke (103-73) in the national championship game. What is hard for many to fathom is UNLV's 1990-91 roster was stronger and more ruthless, with an average margin of victory of 26.7 points per game prior to a stunning loss to Duke in that season's NCAA tournament national semifinals.

Steve Fisher's Fab Five brought a swagger to Michigan and college basketball. Although Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson failed to bring a national championship back to Ann Arbor, this cream-of-the-crop recruiting class managed to rattle off a 55-14 record their first two years before players started leaving for the NBA.

From the white T-shirts under their jerseys to the black socks on their feet to marketable monikers of Fab Five, "Plastic Man" Stacey Augmon and "LJ" Larry Johnson, UNLV and Michigan's stamp on college basketball is evident. So, too, is there unspoken (until recently) rivalry.

In the days following the airing of the two documentaries, blog sites, forums, columnists and college basketball pundits started a firestorm by needing an answer as to which team was better. Could the Fab Five beat Tark's Runnin' Rebels?

Fab Five (1992-93) vs. UNLV (1989-90) - 2,001 Simulations
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
UNLV Runnin' Rebels88.596Sample Boxscore
Michigan Wolverines11.584Simulate UNLV vs. Fab Five

Fab Five (1992-93) vs. UNLV (1990-91) - 2,001 Simulations
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
UNLV Runnin' Rebels84.692Sample Boxscore
Michigan Wolverines15.481Simulate UNLV vs. Fab Five

Check out our 2011 NCAA Sweet 16 Predictions


Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for He can be reached at

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