The talents of Howard and Jackson weren't as obvious against Duke as those of their fellow freshmen. Howard's biggest contribution was in using his massive 6'9", 242-pound body to wear down Laettner. He also got eight rebounds. Jackson played only three minutes, but he had already been impressive enough in early practices that Michigan coach Steve Fisher chose not to redshirt him, as had been widely expected.
The Fab Five has Fisher—whose team finished eighth in the Big Ten last season—anxious to start the rugged conference season. "We talked about using this game as a barometer to check where we were at this point," Fisher said. "From that standpoint, I have a good feeling about this team."
In the end, it was the Blue Devils' greater calm under fire that helped them survive. After Webber hit a three-pointer to give the Wolverines a 73-68 lead with 1:41 left in regulation, Duke point guard Bobby Hurley replied 11 seconds later with a trey of his own. And Michigan made crucial mistakes down the stretch.
But in their first significant test, the Michigan freshmen proved that they belong at the head of the class, which came as no surprise to any of them. "We've played against a lot of these guys before," said Rose. "Laettner, [ Duke forward] Grant Hill, we've played with them and against them at camps and in summer leagues. Some of us have worked out with some of the Detroit Pistons."
The young Wolverines seem to respect nothing so much as their own talent. "Jimmy King said to me the other day that when we find out how good we are, it's going to be scary," Webber said. "I think he's right." But Webber didn't look scared at all. He was smiling.