Elite Eight - 1981 vs. 1989

Mar 24, 2020

This morning it was Bill Self's first team against Bill Self's last team. Tonight it's the team that launched the Lou Henson decade vs. the team that closed Lou Henson's amazing decade. Eddie Johnson and Derek Harper against Nick Anderson and Kenny Battle.

Right to the lineups:

1981 Starters:

Derek Harper
Perry Range
Eddie Johnson
Mark Smith
Derek Holcomb

A team breakdown can be found here.

1989 Starters:

Steve Bardo
Kendall Gill
Nick Anderson
Kenny Battle
Lowell Hamilton

A team breakdown can be found here.

First, man, we'll never see a stretch like that again. Here are the NCAA seeds between 1981 and 1989:

4, (NIT), 7, 2, 3, 4, 3, 3, 1

We just went seven years without an NCAA Tournament appearance and if we add 1990 to that list we went 2-3-4-3-3-1-5 over a seven year stretch in the 1980's. That's just totally insane.

OK, so this matchup. One thing sticks out: I'd pay so much money to see a matchup of Nick Anderson and Eddie Johnson. That's the whole show here. Kenny Battle and Mark Smith, sure. Steve Bardo and Derek Harper, I'm in. But Nick Anderson and Eddie Johnson would be a game I'd take my sons to because they'd need to be there for that moment in Illini history.

Both were guard-y forwards who were really guards but come on they could play forward. Both were rebounding machines despite being a bit undersized when they entered the paint. Both could shoot shoot shoot. They even hit the two most famous shots of the 1980's: Eddie's jumper to beat #1 Michigan State and Anderson's long bomb to beat Indiana.

Both would go on to long NBA careers. Fun fact: did you know that when Eddie Johnson retired from the NBA he was the #22 scorer all time? Like, at the time, only 21 NBA players had more career points. Betcha didn't know that.

I think we all know who wins this game, but it's still fun to talk about. The one year where Derek Harper and Eddie Johnson got to play together vs. the Flyin' Illini.

After watching these polls, I know how you're going to vote, so we should probably just get to it. Vote here and then let's get to the Final Four.


BigRedIllini on March 24 @ 10:22 PM CDT

Just saw Alan Griffin put his name in the transfer portal. Was hoping to see him develop into one of those great rebounding guard-y forwards who could shoot the lights out, but I guess it wasn't to be...

Efremwinters84 on March 25 @ 05:56 AM CDT

Yep, Eddie vs. Nick would be the best match-up. But Derek Harper was just a FR, so the Flyin' Illini probably dominate 4 of the 5 positions in this one. More than likely a blow-out.

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