#4 1994 vs #5 1983
Starters and Bench
If this were the NCAA Tournament, people would swear this match-up was intentional.
This pits two teams which followed national title squads and to some extent ended up having disappointing seasons. The 1983 Heels opened up the season by losing to St. John's and Missouri before squeaking by Tulane 70-68 in triple overtime to avoid an 0-3 start. UNC would end up at 3-3 before reeling off 18 straight wins and ascend to #1 in the poll. The rest of the season included three straight losses then a loss to NC State in the ACC Tournament. UNC entered the NCAA Tournament as a #2 seed and bowed out to Georgia(who?) in the Elite Eight. Meanwhile NC State rode three decades(and counting) worth of good fortune to win the title.
The 1994 team was much hyped heading into the 1994 season. After all the Heels "only" lost George Lynch, Pat Sullivan and Henrik Rodl but added Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Jeff McInnis. In terms of talent the freshmen were viewed as upgrades over the departed players. Unfortunately said team never really meshed and the Heels found out just how much Lynch's leadership was worth. While the Heels were dominant at times and won the ACC Tournament, there were moments like losing to UMass in the NIT, getting swept by Georgia Tech which included losing by 20 in Atlanta. The #2 ranked Tar Heels even dropped a game at Clemson. The biggest lapse came in the NCAA Tournament when the Heels failed to dispatch #8 seeded Boston College though Danya Abrams taking Derrick Phelps out of the game with a foul that today would have gotten him ejected from the contest had something to do with it. So what we have here is two very good teams that didn't quite pan out in postseason play.
Looking at the match-up the 1994 team has a nice edge when it comes to bench quality. Jerry Stackhouse, Jeff McInnis, an experience Kevin Salvadori and Dante Calabria would give the 1994 Heels a leg-up on the 1983 Heels in terms of depth. Both Curtis Hunter and Steve Hale were freshmen in 1983. Hunter was thought to be the next Michael Jordan but ended up having a so-so career. Hale, it seems, was perpetually injured. Warren Martin was basically just a big body to throw out there, sort of like Desmond Hubert. Buzz Peterson started for UNC earlier in the season but was later relegated to the bench.
Matters are a bit more even for the starters though 1994 still looks to be slightly better or at least capable of holding its own against 1983. Derrick Phelps and Brian Reese have an edge on Jim Braddock and Matt Doherty. Michael Jordan would be a tough match-up for Donald Williams on both ends of the floor. The interior probably provides the biggest fireworks. Sam Perkins versus Rasheed Wallace would be well worth the price of admission to watch those two go at it. And as good as Brad Daugherty was, Eric Montross as a senior would get the nod over the freshman.
Like any #4 vs #5 game, this one could be very tight with both teams enjoying some level of advantage. The biggest issue for the 1983 team is the lack of three point shooters. 1994 has the perimeter weapons to outgun the 1983 team. The 1994 team is probably a little better on the defensive end as well starting with Phelps at the point. 1983's hopes lies with Jordan having a huge game while Perkins and Daugherty hold their own or win the day on the interior.
The coaching is even since Dean Smith ran both teams.