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THF Countdown #15: 1989

Season: 1988-89
Record: 29-8 overall, 9-5 ACC(2nd place tie)
ACC Tournament: Won Championship
NCAA Tournament: Lost to Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen

Roster: Steve Bucknall, Pete Chilcutt, Hubert Davis, Jeff Denny, Rick Fox, John Greene, Marty Hensley, Jeff Lebo, Kevin Madden, David May, J.R. Reid, King Rice, Scott Williams.

Source: UNC Media Guide

This actually ranks as one of my favorite seasons, probably because this was the season they finally broke the ACC Tournament drought after two consecutive title game losses and three in four years.  The ACC Championship against Duke was an all out classic coming down to Duke's Danny Ferry chucking the ball from three quarter court and hitting the rim at the buzzer.  That shot would have tied the game but instead UNC had their first ACC title since 1982.

The title game matchup marked the 2nd straight season UNC and Duke played three times.  The first game at Durham in 1989 was one of the more memorable Duke-UNC games in my opinion because of the cicumstances surrounding it.  On January 15th, UNC went to Charlottesville and got absolutely pasted by Virginia 106-83.  There are not many times UNC loses a game by 23 points and certainly not all that many where they give up 100 points in the process.  Rubbing salt in the open wound on this one was the fact starting PG Jeff Lebo injured his ankle and would be out for an indefinite period of time.  So the Heels headed to Cameron three days later without Lebo to face the #1 ranked Blue Devils.  Starting PG duties fell to sophomore King Rice and this was the point in history where playing at Cameron was actually sort of intimidating.  The Heels won anyway completely dismantled Duke that evening clocking the Devils by 20 on their home floor.  Duke returned the favor in Chapel Hill at season's end thus setting up the rubber match in the tournament which UNC won.

Other interesting items from this season were:

  • UNC lost to Iowa in Chapel Hill 98-97 on what I remember being some extremely questionable officiating at the end of the game.
  • The Heels avenged the previous season's Elite Eight loss(like they did in 1988 vs Syracuse) by beating Arizona in December.
  • Strangely enough UNC played a pair of non-conference teams twice.  UNC saw Missouri in the preseason NIT and lost in the semifinals(before beating Indiana in the 3rd place game) and then beat the Tigers by 16 ten days later in Charlotte.  The Heels also played UCLA in the regular season and then in the NCAA Tournament beating them both times.  The win in the tournament was a little dicey for much of the game however.
  • In terms of non-conference scheduling, the Heels played a slate that would make Jim Boheim or Gary Williams blanche.  Here are UNC's non-conference opponents in 1989: Chattnooga, Georgia, Missouri(twice), Indiana, Stanford, Arizona, Vanderbilt, Richmond, UCLA, Towson St., SD State, Pepperdine, Depaul, Iowa, Old Dominion and Nevada.  Three of those teams were ranked at the time UNC played them and eight of them ended up in the NCAA Tournament.  In fact adding the ACC teams to the mix through the ACC Tournament, UNC played 21 of 34 games against NCAA Tournament teams.  That officialy counts as a tough schedule.

Of course this season came to a screeching halt in the Sweet Sixteen mostly because Michigan's Glen Rice was playing out of his freaking mind in the NCAAs and flame broiled the Heels from three point range Michigan went on to win the national title.  This was also the tournament run for Steve Fisher who was handed the Michigan job right before the tournament because Bill Freider was stupid enough to take the job at Arizona State before his team was done playing.  Of course there are UNC implications here since Fisher ended up recruiting the Fab Five who played UNC in 1993 and forgot how many timeouts they had.  Not that it mattered UNC was up two with three fouls to give and eleven seconds left.  We simply appreciate that blantant example of poor coaching sealing the deal a few seconds early.

Anyway, this was also the last season(thankfully) of JR Reid who was shoved out shown the door. Dean apparently sweet talked the Charlotte Hornets into making Reid the 4th 5th pick in the NBA Draft.  Whether Reid should have gone that high or not is really quite debatable.  Dean was just happy to have him gone even if it meant losing 13 games the following season.

Countdown So Far

16. 1988
17. 1985
18. 2006
19. 2001
20. 1992
21. 1996
22. 1999
23. 2000
24. 2004
25. 1990
26. 2003
27. 2002