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Kentucky's freshmen won't acknowledge Fab Five similarities on eve of Michigan game

Kevin Kaduk
The Dagger
NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Louisville vs Kentucky
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Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and James Young (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS — Given that none of them were alive at the time, it should come as no surprise that Kentucky's freshmen didn't exactly light up when the Fab Five were mentioned here on Saturday. 

"We don't pay much attention to that," Dakari Johnson said. 

"Yeah, we can't really pay attention to stuff like that," Andrew Harrison echoed. 

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Maybe they can't. Kentucky coach John Calipari has spent all season spinning his own giant persecution complex into an us-against-the-world bunker where the Wildcats now reside, just one win away from the Final Four. Talk about a hoops team from ages ago? For what gain?

And yet for the rest of us who love college hoops, the situation is too delicious to ignore. To reach that Final Four, Kentucky's own group of Fab Freshmen will have to win Sunday's Elite Eight game against Michigan, the school that played host to arguably the most famous college basketball squad of all time. 

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Jimmy King , Ray Jackson and Jalen Rose at the 2013 NCAA mens Final Four. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

Do that and Kentucky will become just the second school to reach a Final Four with a starting lineup consisting solely of freshmen. Officially it'd be the first, seeing as Michigan had to vacate its two Final Four trips in the early '90s due to program violations.

Being compared to the Fab Five is nothing new for Calipari's crew. The spotlight started shining brightly when six Wildcat recruits* were named to the 2013 McDonald's All-American team, breaking the previous record of four held by Michigan (1991), Duke (1999) and Kentucky (2011).

*Those six were Johnson, James Young, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle and Marcus Lee. There are nine total freshmen on Kentucky's roster. 

So no, they're not completely unfamiliar with the team that reached the NCAA final twice, losing to Duke in 1992 and North Carolina in 1993. 

"They really changed the game," allowed James Young, a freshman from Rochester Hills, Mich.

"I watched the documentary," said Johnson of ESPN's "30 for 30" film.  

 How many of the Fab Five can Johnson, a man born on Sept. 22, 1995 name?

"Jalen Rose. Chris Webber. Juwan Howard," Johnson begins. "Hmm, [Jimmy] King? And I forgot the last one." 

That would be Ray Jackson, the one Fab Fiver that most everyone stumbles over. Still, not a bad effort from Johnson, a Brooklyn product who admitted difficulty in the transition of being "the man" in New York to just another world-class basketball prodigy fighting for an opportunity in Lexington. Go back 20 years and he'd find that Howard probably faced the same feelings after being the man at Chicago Vocational.

Calipari's quest to close ranks around a Kentucky team that has been hit from all sides during an up-and-down season is a cold and calculated move. Focus is a word that's easily thrown around in sports, but it's clear it was needed among a bunch of 18-year-olds who are criticized on Twitter, featured in basketball magazines and are the object of obsession in the Bluegrass State.

So, again, who can blame him for telling his charges to tune out the comparison talk? 

Calipari still has to admit there are parallels between his team and those MIchigan Wolverines. That crew faced plenty of criticism, whether it was for their baggy shorts or their on-court attitude. It still won five games in each of its NCAA tournament games despite the noise and distractions. (How thankful do you think Jalen Rose is that he didn't play during the age of social media?)  

Maybe you could count this Fab Five narrative as one of the distractions that Calipari is constantly complaining about. Kentucky's team, after all, is not redefining cultural paradigms like the Wolverines did. No, the Wildcats' main offense in the eyes of the haters seems to be eyeing lucrative professional careers that are legally denied them without stepping foot on a campus for a season first. 

But 20 years after they made their run, the Fab Five name still draws a lot of water in the world of college basketball. Beat the school that spawned their legend, and the 2014 Kentucky has a chance to join them in the same breath.

Heck, with three more wins they could do something that Michigan team never did — win a title with an all-freshman lineup. 

That would be quite a feat, even if they may not be old enough to fully realize it.  

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Kevin Kaduk is a writer for Yahoo Sports.. Have a tip? Email him at kevinkaduk@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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