Elite Eight - 1987 vs. 1984
I'm so incredible. I say I'm going to post "one this morning, one this evening" and here I'm going to post it some time around 11:51 pm. "This evening". Ha. It would be hilarious if I put a six hour restriction on the voting and there were nine votes between midnight and 6:00 am. Hey, now there's a way to get 1994 to beat 2005 and throw a real monkey wrench into this bracket.
OK, 1987 vs. 1984. Now THAT'S a matchup. It's everything a 5-seed vs. a 4-seed should be.
I would love to see these teams play each other. Any Illini fan in the 80's knows what they're known for - 1984 got within a whisker of the Final Four and 1987 lost to Austin Peay - but they were very similar teams. Head-to-head, I think it comes down to one play in the final minute.
To the rosters...
1984 breakdown was found in this post.
1987 breakdown was found in this post.
It's still surprising to see Altenberger on the 1987 roster. I always forget that he missed a year due to injury and came back in 1987 as a redshirt senior. I mean, I don't forget it now - I just wrote about it last week - but give me a month and ask me again and I'll swear that Altenberger graduated in 1985 or 1986.
That makes this matchup difficult to talk about - Altenberger guarding Altenberger - and that's the reason I separated all of the teams in this bracket by at least two seasons. 2004 playing 2005 would have made no sense because they're the same team. 1984 playing 1987, well, Altenberger was on both.
But putting that aside, FASCINATING matchup. Bruce Douglas vs. Tony Wysinger. Lowell Hamilton losing six inches to Big George Montgomery (but I bet he'd play solid defense against him). And you know who might be able to stop Ken Norman? Efrem Winters, that's who.
There's no question in my mind that the three best teams of that decade were 1984, 1987, and 1989. And, obviously, I'd rank 1989 at the top. But which team would be #2 and which team would be #3? I really don't know.
I might lean 1987 when I look at the rosters, but that's because you see all of the 1989 names on there like Bardo and Gill (except most of them were freshmen and not contributing). I might lean 1984 when you look at conference results (they won the Big Ten, 1987 finished 4th), but the Big Ten in 1987 was murderer's row (four teams that were ranked in the top five during that season - Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, and Indiana).
I mean, just look at the assists. Bruce Douglas: 5.7 assists per game; Tony Wysinger, 6.4 assists per game. These teams had guards who could get you the ball and bigs who could score. And they both had Doug Altenberger draining jumpers.
The matchup probably comes down to the frontcourt battles: Efrem Winters and George Montgomery with Scott Meents off the bench vs. Ken Norman and Lowell Hamilton with Jens Kujawa off the bench. And if two bigs got into foul trouble in 1987? OLAF BLAB.
(OK it was probably Phil Kunz and then Olaf Blab. And even a few appearances from Michael Finke's dad!)
Any way you look at it, this matchup is close. I really don't know which way I'd vote. Thankfully, that task is yours.
Which team moves on to the Final Four? Go vote here.