What If: 1996-97 vs. 1989-90

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It's the last game of the first round (we're not calling it the second round just because there was a play-in game), and today's matchup pits the top-seeded 1996-97 What If Tar Heels against the 16th-seeded 1989-90 team. Our no. 1 team is the What If group that's been talked about for more than 15 years. What if Jerry and Rasheed had stayed through their senior seasons and been joined by sophomores Jamison and Carter? That starting five has more than 15 NBA All-Star appearances combined. Add to that a junior Shammond Williams, a young Ed Cota, and big man Serge Zwikker on the bench, and you're talking about one of the all-time Tar Heel teams. The 1989-90 group returns a senior J.R. Reid to a team that would make a Final Four run a year later, with a terrific junior class and a soph named Hubert Davis.

1996-97 What If Tar Heels

Coach: Dean Smith

Strengths: Athleticism, NBA starting 5, deep bench (Williams, Cota, Okulaja), PG rotation (McInnis and Cota)

Weaknesses: Other than Williams, no true three-point threat.

Will win the tournament if: Cota can accept reserve role and Carter/Okulaja give Shammond outside shooting help

Will lose in the first round if: They won't.

Captains: Stackhouse/Wallace

This team in one word: athletic

1989-90 What If Tar Heels

Coach: Dean Smith

Strengths: Inside/outside combo of Reid and Davis

Weaknesses: Not a great running team, backup PG (Denny? Rodl?)

Will win the tournament if: Davis gets hot, Reid finds a rhythm, Rice controls the tempo and makes it a half-court game

Will lose in the first round if: Rice gets winded or in foul trouble, no outside shooting help for Davis, opposing teams run

Captains: Reid/Williams/Rice

This team in one word: J.R.

 

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