The good fellows over at SCACC Hoops have used their game simulator to put on a tournament of all time great ACC teams. The tournament has run its course and the 2009 Tar Heels beat the 1999 Duke Blue Devils 3-2 in a best of five series.
Since we are all big junkies for comparing various UNC teams and players the more relevant aspect of this is how the 2009 team was seeded and who they defeated en route to winning this mythical title. Here is a list of the UNC teams involved in this tournament and their seeds.
Certainly this is all debatable to the nth degree but putting 2009 ahead of 1982 and 1993 ahead of 2005 does not quite seem right. Then again I have my own rankings of UNC teams so I might be biased. Seedings are one thing, actual results are another which is where this really gets dicey. During the tournament the 2009 team faced the 1982 team and won 3-1.
Among UNC fans the 1982 ranks as "the" team of the modern era. Prior to the 2009 season I laid out what I thought would necessary for that team to surpass 1982. It was something along the lines of two or fewer losses, win the ACC regular season and tournament championships as well as the national title. 2009 got two of four right and four losses. 2008 had they won the title would have been on the money. Given the differing levels of parity and styles of the games in the respected eras it probably makes more sense to discuss personnel. Turning the debate in that directions leaves you one question: How does 2009 stop James Worthy, Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins? The answer is I don't think they could. The 2009 was not a great defensive team. Their offense was incredible and on the basis of sheer firepower and pace did they overwhelm teams. I am not sure that would work vs 1982. When you start looking at matchups you can certainly give 2009 the nod at PG(Ty Lawson over Jimmy Black) and SF(Danny Green over Matt Doherty.) Beyond that I think 1982 wins, yes even with Tyler Hansbrough vs Perkins. Hansbrough, as good as he was, often had trouble with athletic big men. Perkins had tremendous length and would have trouble Hansbrough in the post. Jordan vs Wayne Ellington would be an interesting matchup though I think Jordan gets the nod there. At the four...please...Deon Thompson vs James Worthy? Worthy would eat Thompson for lunch, spit him out and them eat him again for dinner. In fact that matchup alone sort of tips the scales in a massive way. Lawson would certainly best Black but I am not sure it would be enough to change the outcome.
The only X factor is the depth of the 2009 team over the 1982 squad. Ed Davis would change the matchups, possibly in favor of 2009 with Ed Davis matching up with Perkins and Hansbrough possibly guarding Worthy. Hansbrough was not a great post defender but was better guarding players off the dribble and away from the basket. The depth in general would help 2009 especially if they forced the pace. Unfortunately this is where the difference in eras comes into play. The 1982 team played without a shot clock and a shorter three point line in ACC play only no three pointer. It is tough to speculate how the 1982 team would play with a 35 second shot clock and a 20'9" three point line. The former pushed the pace where the latter changes the spacing and defense. In the reverse scenario the 2009 would still play up-tempo but not having a three point line might hurt.
Of course no analysis would be complete without a look at the coaching. Even Roy Williams would agree that Dean Smith would totally own him here. Roy is not a bad game coach but Dean was a master. I would put the money on Dean in that matchup.
Aside from the personnel I would point out that the 1982 team went 4-1 against teams with major NBA talent on them. They beat #2 Kentucky, Virginia with Ralph Sampson twice, Houston with Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon and Georgetown with Patrick Ewing. They also only lost two games all season long to Virginia on the road and vs Wake Forest in a game Sam Perkins missed. The 2009 was prone to lapses as losses to Boston College and Maryland proved. For me that is the proof in the proverbial pudding.