Sunday, March 20, 2011

Better Documentary: UNLV or Fab Five?

Over a week ago, two interesting documentaries were released on television that chronicled some of the most well known college basketball teams from the early 1990s.

The UNLV doc took a look at Jerry Tarkanian's renegade Runnin' Rebels program that he lifted to prominence and eventually a national championship. The Fab Five doc looked at the Michigan freshmen's career at the school as well as their impact on basketball since. They are eerily similar yet done differently. Let's take a look:

INFORMATION: I think the most important item in a documentary is the information it is providing. This was a bit of a mismatch. The UNLV doc was just an hour long and covered nearly a two decade time frame. The Michigan one was two hours long (commercials included) and covered just a couple years of actual basketball but fast forwarded to the impact of both the kids games and the eventual sanctioned levied against the program. Just the amount of time available and the amount of info makes this a landslide. WINNER: FAB FIVE

STYLE: ESPN (who aired the Michigan doc) has done a great job with their "30 for 30" series. They have a wealth of resources and their own library to get everything they need. HBO, though not a sports channel, has done an excellent job over the last three decades in all types of documentaries, including ones involving sports. I liked the style HBO had with better interviews, still photos and old footage. I do wish they got a few more player interviews. WINNER: UNLV

SUBJECT MATTER: To me, the UNLV documentary was a bit more interesting than the Michigan one. That means nothing more than personal preference. The actual happenings at UNLV and how a school no one cared about in a city known for a lot of seedy things drew more interest from me than the fact that five high-ranked recruits decided to go to the same school. I've seen that before and since (John Calipari has done that in two of the last three recruiting classes) ... though the characters of that Michigan team far dominant any of the other "fab freshmen" we've seen. Not to mention that UNLV wasn't as well known even during their dominating reign. They were a Big West school that got late night game times if they were shown at all. WINNER: UNLV

THE TWO MAIN ABSENTEES: One problem both docs had was the fact that the two most well known players of those subjects decided not to participate. Both, by the way, went on to be No. 1 draft picks in the NBA. Larry Johnson and Chris Webber both played just two years at their schools but both were lightning rods as well as highly successful players. The bigger absence was Webber. LJ was a JUCO transfer; Webber was a highly touted high school player. LJ wasn't the reason UNLV fell off the map -- Webber was the reason Michigan did. Despite sanctions against UNLV, none of their records were thrown out. Due to Webber's transgressions (as well as a few others), those two Final Fours and championship game appearances are erased.

It would've been very interesting to see Webber to respond to all of documentary. So his exclusion was missed. WINNER: UNLV

WATER COOLER-ABILITY: This one is another slam dunk for the Fab Five. First, there's been enough controversy from the Michigan documentary that it ellicited a response from the normally quiet Grant Hill as well as forcing Jalen Rose into a scrambling role. There's been tons of discussion on that doc on many sports talk radio and TV shows. The UNLV doc? Well, many of you didn't even know there was one. WINNER: FAB FIVE

WHICH ONE WAS BETTER?: Again, this goes by personal preference ... but despite my elevated interest in the UNLV documentary, the Fab Five one was better. It brought up way more emotion in it than the Runnin' Rebels one just because of all that controversy. People who hated the Fab Five will hate them more after watching it. As for UNLV, the most controversial part of that was Tark the Shark ... and he's a tough guy to completely hate. The Michigan film . WINNER: FAB FIVE

WHICH TEAM WAS BETTER, 1990-1991 UNLV OR 1992-1993 MICHIGAN?: I'm going with UNLV. That 1990 and 1991 UNLV teams were freakin' machines! They had more style and glitz than the Wolverines did. It would be a great game, but I don't think Michigan could keep up with UNLV. Both went to two Final Fours, both won two games total in those Final Fours ... but Michigan didn't win the title that UNLV did. Michigan didn't enter a Final Four with an undefeated record like UNLV did. UNLV beat Duke in 1990 by 30 points in the title game and lost by a bucket to Duke in 1991. Michigan was rolled by Duke in the 1992 title game. WINNER: UNLV

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