What If Tournament Championship

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It's come to this: Top-seeded 1996-97 vs. no. 3 1983-84 in the What If Tar Heel Tournament Championship. In the Final Four, 1996-97 defeated their junior counterparts, 1995-96, by a landslide. Your votes told us that experience counts, as the elders took 95 percent of the vote.

In the second semifinal, 1983-84 was 22 votes better than 2005-06, as you told us that Dean Smith's team with a healthy Kenny Smith had what it takes to down the defending national champions.

Again, we asked David Culp to weigh in on the championship game:

The What If Tournament Championship game features a team filled with players that left early for the riches of the NBA (1996-97) versus a team that was a wrist injury away from a potentially magical season (1983-84).  The starting lineups feature some of the most gifted athletes to ever put on a North Carolina uniform, and both teams are coached by Dean Smith.  

The point guard matchup features senior Jeff McInnis vs freshman Kenny “The Jet” Smith.  The 97 team is also bolstered by the fact that freshman Ed Cota can come off the bench when McInnis tires.  Although Smith (who should have been named ACC Player of the Year in 1987) is one of UNC’s all-time great point guards, he will have his hands full with the McInnis/Cota combo.  I rate this matchup even.

The shooting guard matches up junior Michael Jordan vs sophomore Vince Carter.  With all due respect to the athletic Carter, MJ won’t have much trouble getting his points.  Advantage: Jordan (84)  

Senior Matt Doherty will need some help containing senior Jerry Stackhouse in the small forward matchup.  Advantage: Stackhouse (97)

The power forward position is the most intriguing as we will see sophomore Antawn Jamison vs senior Sam Perkins.  Both players have their jerseys in the rafters and Jamison’s #33 has been retired.  Jamison’s game is built around quick releases, offensive rebounds and fast break finishes, while Perkins thrived on his back to the basket game coupled with the occasional jump shot.  Jamison’s perimeter game didn’t really develop until he got to the NBA, but Perkins would sometimes drift out to the at the time brand new three-point line in college.  Defensively, Perkins still ranks as one of the all-time great shot-blockers (# 2) in UNC history.  I rate this matchup even.

At center, senior Rasheed Wallace takes on sophomore Brad Daugherty.  By the time he was a senior, Daugherty was an All-American and eventual top pick in the NBA draft.  The talent was there in 1984, but Daugherty had not quite developed yet into the type of player that would be able to handle Wallace.  As a senior, Rasheed would have flat out dominated college hoops.  His combination of athleticism, defense and perimeter scoring would have made him extremely difficult to defend.  Advantage: Wallace (97)

The bench features some of the great unsung players in Carolina basketball history.  1984 has Buzz Peterson, Joe Wolf, Steve Hale, Dave Popson and Curtis Hunter.  1997 features Ed Cota, Shammond Williams, Ademola Okulaja, Serge Zwikker and Makhtar Ndiaye.  I give a slight edge to the 97 team’s bench.  

 Will 1984 Coach Smith go zone to force the 97 team to beat them from the perimeter.  Will Jordan take the “next Michael Jordan” labels given to Carter and Stackhouse personally?  Will Doherty be able to slow down Stackhouse?  Will sophomore Brad Daugherty be up to the task of defending senior Rasheed Wallace?   Who will get the best of the Jamison/Perkins matchup?  Will the athleticism and depth of 1997 prevail or is there any way a healthy 1984 team ever loses?  What if these two teams had been able to stay together??

Now, tell us who you think would win this epic battle that features a dozen future NBA players, six NBA All-Stars, nine NBA titles and four Olympic gold medals. Voting will be open through Monday, so weigh in with your comments and be sure to vote!

1996-97 What If Tar Heels

1983-84 What If Tar Heels


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