In the 1991-92 season, Duke got two up close and personal looks at Michigan and their vaunted Fab Five.
In the first game, on December 15th, Michigan took Duke to overtime in Ann Arbor, before losing to the Blue Devils 88-85. Then of course, the teams met again in the championship game and Duke came back to win that one by 20 - and that came after Duke played very poorly before finishing on an overwhelming 23-6 run in the last 5:41.
Then in the fall, Michigan made the return trip to Durham but woofed about the championship Duke “stole” from them. That didn't go over well with Duke and the Blue Devils, minus Christian Laettner and Brian Davis, took it to the Wolverines, winning this time 79-68.
At some point, you’d have thought if might have occurred to the Fab Five that Duke was doing things they weren't, maybe working harder and maybe making better basketball decisions during those three games.
But they really didn’t.
Now sophomores, the Fab Five finished the regular season in second place in the Big Ten and rolled to the NCAA Finals.
Unfortunately for them, Dean Smith had what was possibly his finest team, or at least the purest distillation of his philosophy which is probably the same thing.
And any fool could see that Michigan was going to lose. They were talented enough to keep the game close, but not necessarily tough enough to win a tight game.
They were very likely to make a costly mistake at the end against a superbly unified and disciplined UNC and Chris Webber came through.
After Pat Sullivan missed his second free throw with :17 left, Webber showed that he wasn’t made for that.
First he started to pass to a teammate then balked and kept it, but, as Billy Packer exclaimed, he walked.
And then he dribbled downcourt and the clock said :14, he had someone (we think Rob Pelinka, now GM for the Los Angeles Lakers) wide open but didn’t pass it.
Instead he dribbled down to the corner where Derrick Phelps and George Lynch immediately applied pressure and called his infamous timeout.
Other than the rebound, the entire play was ludicrously bad. He passed up at least two chances to get the ball to a guard and possibly one last chance to pass the ball before Phelps and then to call a timeout Michigan didn’t have?
The Fab Five had great talent and potential, but in the end, they never won the Big Ten, never won a championship of any kind, and lost to Duke three straight times.
And in the end, Michigan had to forfeit 113 games and the banners had to come down due to a scandal Webber was involved with.
And when you think about that, it’s probably better to have missed twice because taking one or both national championships might have been taken.