#3 1987 vs # 1996
Starters and Bench
The 1987 is yet another Tar Heel team from the 1980s that was very good most of the season but saw things go south at the wrong time. UNC entered the ACC Tournament with a single loss on the regular season, at Notre Dame while Kenny Smith was injured. The Tar Heels had going 14-0 in the ACC and made it to the title game before succumbing to a mediocre NC State team. In the NCAA Tournament, UNC made it to the regional final losing to Syracuse. Jeff Lebo was under the weather for the game and went 0-5 from three. Ultimately UNC had no answer for the Orange's Rony Seikaly despite 25 points from Kenny Smith.
The 1996 team opened up ACC play going 7-1 before fading down the stretch. The loss to Clemson in the ACC Quarterfinals at Greensboro was the first time the Tigers had beaten UNC in the state of North Carolina. The NCAA Tournament didn't go much better with UNC bowing out in the second round to Texas Tech that included the Red Raiders' Darvin Ham shattering the backboard on a dunk leading to a delay in the game.
In short, there match-up is pretty straighforward. Antawn Jamison was solid even as a freshman and Dante Calabria had developed into a great three point shooter by this point in his career. Vince Carter actually struggled as a freshman and wouldn't really round into form until the 1997 and 1998 seasons. On paper 1987 has a leg-up at almost every position and boasted a starting front line of 6-9 J.R. Reid, 6-10 Dave Popson and 6-10 Joe Wolf. Couple that with Kenny Smith and Jeff Lebo plus the sheer experience of this team over 1996, the match-up would seem to favor 1987.