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Listening to Boers and Bernstein on The Score yesterday, they were discussing a recent poll which asked fans who they think would win between this years Illinois team or the '89 Final Four Illini. Apparently 60% of the fans thought this years team would win. I think the '89 team would stomp a mudhole in the current edition of the Illini. I don't claim to be the smartest poster on the boards, but college basketball was soooo much better back then. Look at the Michigan team they beat twice that year. They had 6 future NBA players on their roster. That Illinois team would give the current team fits from a matchup standpoint. Look at the backcourt of Bardo and Kendall Gill, both 6'5 and tremendous defensive players. Nick Anderson would kill anyone the current Illini have in the low post. Guys in the NBA had trouble stoppiing him down low, I don't see anyone from this years team stopping him. Kenny Battle and Roger Powell Jr would be a fun matchup but I see Battle being the superior player. What do you guys think?
 

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I agree with you completely, and I'm not sure how someone could even argue that college basketball now is anything remotely near the quality of the game 15-20 years ago. And that's not old-man "I walked 5 miles to school uphill both ways" ranting, it's just basic math: the most talented players bypass college entirely, and those who do go are staying for less and less time. A team like the 1989 Illini simply doesn't exist anymore -- the overwhelming majority of players who know they'll go in the first round just leave college, whether they're freshman, sophomores, whatever. Back in 1989, even third-years going pro was still fairly exotic.

(Note that while I acknowledge early entry has decimated the caliber of college play, I do not agree with the corollary that it has weakened pro play -- it's just made life more interesting for player personnel staff and coaches.)
 
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Count me in with you two. The '89 team would drub this illini team by 15 points 9 out of 10 times. The teams aren't even comparable in any meaningful way other than to say they are/were most likely the best team in the nation in their respective seasons.

I consider the '89 Illini team one of the greatest teams in the history of college basketball to NOT win a championship. 60% said this year's team is better? Thats recency for ya.
 

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Nice post ScottMay, have to agree. Different era, different brand of basketball actually. The '89 team had more horses and NBA talent no doubt. Can this really be argued in light of the current college basketball landscape?

I almost wish the Illini to win the championship just so that Steven Bardo can shut his trap about 'we were the better team... we had more NBA players... Michigan had X number of NBA players' rah rah rah. I have to hear that on every Chicago media outlet as Bardo has somehow become the spokesman for all things Illini basketball.

I'd like the current Illini's chances (though slightly), only because the college game has evolved in a heavy reliance on 3-pt shooting and guard play. That Flying Illini team rarely shot the trey as evidenced here. 2-8 three-point shooting in game versus Michigan. Michigan 3 for 8. Bardo shot 1-7 that night too though he was never known for his offense.

Bardo v. Williams
Gill v. Brown
Anderson v. Head
Battle v. Powell
Hamilton v. Augustine
bench- Liberty v. Ingrahm

Let's see how this current group does against ARI. Arizona supposedly has more NBA talent that the Illini. Interesting....
 

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superdave said:
Nice post ScottMay, have to agree. Different era, different brand of basketball actually. The '89 team had more horses and NBA talent no doubt. Can this really be argued in light of the current college basketball landscape?

I almost wish the Illini to win the championship just so that Steven Bardo can shut his trap about 'we were the better team... we had more NBA players... Michigan had X number of NBA players' rah rah rah. I have to hear that on every Chicago media outlet as Bardo has somehow become the spokesman for all things Illini basketball.

I'd like the current Illini's chances (though slightly), only because the college game has evolved in a heavy reliance on 3-pt shooting and guard play. That Flying Illini team rarely shot the trey as evidenced here. 2-8 three-point shooting in game versus Michigan. Michigan 3 for 8. Bardo shot 1-7 that night too though he was never known for his offense.

Bardo v. Williams
Gill v. Brown
Anderson v. Head
Battle v. Powell
Hamilton v. Augustine
bench- Liberty v. Ingrahm

Let's see how this current group does against ARI. Arizona supposedly has more NBA talent that the Illini. Interesting....
You do make a good point about the three-point line. It was only two years old (NCAA-wide) in 1989, and outside of UNLV and Loyola Marymount and a handful of others, teams didn't take nearly as many threes as they do now.

So imagining a game enabled by StarTrek-style time travel, with all other things being equal, I guess I can envision the 2005 team getting red-hot from three and upsetting the 1989 team.

However, Gill and Bardo were pretty great defenders, and the 1989 team's athleticism across the front line would be way too much for the current team to handle on most nights.
 

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ScottMay said:
You do make a good point about the three-point line. It was only two years old (NCAA-wide) in 1989, and outside of UNLV and Loyola Marymount and a handful of others, teams didn't take nearly as many threes as they do now.

So imagining a game enabled by StarTrek-style time travel, with all other things being equal, I guess I can envision the 2005 team getting red-hot from three and upsetting the 1989 team.

However, Gill and Bardo were pretty great defenders, and the 1989 team's athleticism across the front line would be way too much for the current team to handle on most nights.
Agreed. That front line was scary then and pretty scary now.

To iterate, I agree that the NBA level talent (first-rounders for example) are jumping ship at earliest opportunity... out of HS, frosh/soph year, whenever like you said ScottMay. So the 'elite' talent pool isn't quite there in college basketball (duh) :D

But this being said, I don't believe the talent disparity between the powerhouse teams (UNC, Kansas, Duke) and say mid major schools like UIC or UWM is <i>any</i> different than it was 15 years ago. The better players are still getting scholarships at premium D1 schools, leaving the scraps for everyone else.

So how does one reconcile the parody of college basketball with the existing talent disparity that I just argued previously? The 3-pt line. Its the great equalizer. Give me a team that shoots 33% from the arch and match it up with a 50% shooting low post team and we have a tight game. Its the way mid-major teams have always given bigger D1 schools problems in the tourney. Think Gonzaga's improbable run through the past 6 or 7 years.

So my theory (yes this is just my theory and I haven't read a major exposition on this) is that the parody in college basketball is due more to the reliance on the 3-pt shot than the apparent 'even-ing of talent level' that the media has us believe. As if UWM will be signing any McDonald's all-americans anytime soon. ;)

If I were to build a basketball team in today's game, I'd do it in the mould of the Illini. Great PG and decision-maker, guards who can flat out shoot the trey, big guys who will scrap and rebound and defend. Timely offensive and defensive sets. Seems to be the model of a lot of teams actually.

I've kind of lost track of what I am/was responding to ScottMay, but I had to spit out my theories somewhere right?
 

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superdave said:
Agreed. That front line was scary then and pretty scary now.

To iterate, I agree that the NBA level talent (first-rounders for example) are jumping ship at earliest opportunity... out of HS, frosh/soph year, whenever like you said ScottMay. So the 'elite' talent pool isn't quite there in college basketball (duh) :D

But this being said, I don't believe the talent disparity between the powerhouse teams (UNC, Kansas, Duke) and say mid major schools like UIC or UWM is <i>any</i> different than it was 15 years ago. The better players are still getting scholarships at premium D1 schools, leaving the scraps for everyone else.

So how does one reconcile the parody of college basketball with the existing talent disparity that I just argued previously? The 3-pt line. Its the great equalizer. Give me a team that shoots 33% from the arch and match it up with a 50% shooting low post team and we have a tight game. Its the way mid-major teams have always given bigger D1 schools problems in the tourney. Think Gonzaga's improbable run through the past 6 or 7 years.

So my theory (yes this is just my theory and I haven't read a major exposition on this) is that the parody in college basketball is due more to the reliance on the 3-pt shot than the apparent 'even-ing of talent level' that the media has us believe. As if UWM will be signing any McDonald's all-americans anytime soon. ;)

If I were to build a basketball team in today's game, I'd do it in the mould of the Illini. Great PG and decision-maker, guards who can flat out shoot the trey, big guys who will scrap and rebound and defend. Timely offensive and defensive sets. Seems to be the model of a lot of teams actually.

I've kind of lost track of what I am/was responding to ScottMay, but I had to spit out my theories somewhere right?
I have a different parity theory. I think the mid-majors succeed due to continuity as much as anything else. They are recruiting from a base of slightly less talented players, but ones that are far more likely to exhaust their eligibility rather than bolt for the pros at the earliest opportunity. The break-out mid-major teams (Kent State for sure) tend to be units whose key players have played together for 3-4 years, a scenario that's increasingly unlikely even at holiest of holies like Duke.

My problem with using your three-point theory to argue that the overall talent level isn't down is this (note: I completely agree with you that on a game-by-game basis, the three does allow David to compete with Goliath, so long as Goliath isn't hitting HIS threes): I don't think the "50% low post team" exists anymore either. The high-major, elite, blue-chip, McD's AA teams use the three just as much as anyone else. It's not a differentiator imo.

That's why the unattainable "all things being equal" is so important to a comparison of the 1989 and 2005 teams. If the 1989 team were playing by today's rules, they'd have recruited better shooters and focused on taking and defending the three a lot more. Similarly, if the 2005 team were playing in 1989, they'd have been composed with more size or beef across the front line.
 

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Another couple games came to mind that exemplify this.

UConn v. NCState- UConn has three lottery picks, two potential top overall draft picks in Gay and Boone, the best frontline in the country, etc, etc. They beat up the NCState's front line all game long. Yet NCState (whom a couple weeks before were a bubble team) shot 10-20 from long distance to steal one from the Huskies. Huskies shot 2-14. It isn't as simple as saying 'whomever shoots the 3-pter better wins the game' but I would argue that its a HUGE factor for underdog, outsized, and out-talented teams in the tourney boxscore

UWM v. BC- Classic example here, though I didn't get to watch the game. BC rarely shoots the 3pt shot, which is why I thought their record and seed were 'inflated' for the tournament. UWM has five starters who all shoot the three point shot. Mid-major team beats the #1 team in the powerful Big East.
boxscore Kudos to UWM
 

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ScottMay said:
I have a different parity theory. I think the mid-majors succeed due to continuity as much as anything else. They are recruiting from a base of slightly less talented players, but ones that are far more likely to exhaust their eligibility rather than bolt for the pros at the earliest opportunity. The break-out mid-major teams (Kent State for sure) tend to be units whose key players have played together for 3-4 years, a scenario that's increasingly unlikely even at holiest of holies like Duke.

My problem with using your three-point theory to argue that the overall talent level isn't down is this (note: I completely agree with you that on a game-by-game basis, the three does allow David to compete with Goliath, so long as Goliath isn't hitting HIS threes): I don't think the "50% low post team" exists anymore either. The high-major, elite, blue-chip, McD's AA teams use the three just as much as anyone else. It's not a differentiator imo.

That's why the unattainable "all things being equal" is so important to a comparison of the 1989 and 2005 teams. If the 1989 team were playing by today's rules, they'd have recruited better shooters and focused on taking and defending the three a lot more. Similarly, if the 2005 team were playing in 1989, they'd have been composed with more size or beef across the front line.
I agree with most of your post, minus the last paragraph. You can't compare eras, but you can compare style of play. It is essentially the style of play the current Illini play that would keep them in a game versus the '89 Illini (while some have said that team would manhandle the current group of players)... and I would argue might even give them a slight edge versus the older group.

Continuity is absolutely important and I see your point about players staying/leaving early. The betting side of me tells me to rarely trust freshman in the tournament ;) My three point theory has more to do with how coaches are building their teams to compete with larger more 'talented' schools. You can point to high turnover rate at good D1 schools, but year in and year out those upper echelon schools will always have superior NBA level talent. You have guys rotting on the bench at Duke that would be the feature on other D1 schools.

I agree that the overall talent level is down in college basketball and a bit watered down (I didn't say otherwise or at least I think I didn't)... rather, IMO the talent disparity is still there. The disparity between the big time programs and mid-majors. Granted the real blue chippers 2 or 3 a year aren't attending Kansas or UNC. Fine. But those school still have superior talent, sign the best players out of HS for 1 or 2 seasons, and leave thethe mid-majors and lower echelon D1 schools picking up the scraps. I'm am not arguing that the college game has the same level of talent as '89... I'm saying the disparity between the quote have and have-nots is there... and that the 3-point shot and reliance on it has become a great equalizer for college bball.

Hope that clarifies. This is an interesting discussion
 
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