RTC Bracket Second Round Results: Best Team of the Modern Era (1985-2008)

Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2009

Now we’re starting to get to the good stuff.  Below is our sweetest of Sweet Sixteens in the RTC Modern Bracket.

We have ten national champions still alive, three runners-up and three at-large teams. There were a couple of minor upsets, but one of our #1 seeds has already exited this Dance.

Explanations of each game below the bracket.


Instant Analysis

#1 Duke 1992 def. #8 Arizona 1988 – Lute Olson‘s Wildcats keep this game closer than you might expect thanks to Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Anthony Cook, but Coach K’s trio of Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill pull away in the last 5 minutes. Against most teams Elliott is a nightmare match-up, but Duke has Grant Hill who while not quite at the level he was at in 1994 still can play some solid defense. In the end, Arizona, like many teams, doesn’t have an answer for Laettner who wills the Blue Devils into Sweet 16.

#13 St. John’s 1985 def. #12 Arizona 1998 – While I’m not sure that either of these teams can be considered a Cinderella, we get our match-up of double digit teams. Lute Olson’s defending champs came into the game supremely confident after having knocked off a very good Kansas 2008 team with their next match-up against a team that didn’t even make the the NCAA title game, but Lou Carnesecca’s Redmen have other ideas. Arizona’s heralded backcourt of Miles Simon and Mike Bibby simply run into a better version of themselves in Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson and the Wildcats have no answer for Walter Berry. Next up for Lou Carnesecca, Coach K and the 1992 Blue Devils.

#3 UNC 1993 def. #6 Duke 2002 – Our first Duke-UNC match-up of the tournament and it lives up to the hype. Coach K is out for revenge against a Tar Heel team that a year earlier had handed his 1992 Duke team one of its two losses, but this Duke team seems to lack that intangible factor (Shane Battier–ok not so intangible) that put it over the top in 2001. Carlos Boozer, who struggled his entire career against Brendan Haywood (taller, but less skilled player), has a horrible game against a similar player in Eric Montross. Jason Williams is clearly the best player on the court, but even he isn’t enough overcome UNC’s edge at every other position with Boozer being taken out of the game and Mike Dunleavy Jr. being, well, Mike Dunleavy Jr. (read: soft), particularly with his inability to hit free throws after repeatedly blowing by the Tar Heels perimeter players.

#2 Georgetown 1985 def. #10 Arkansas 1995 – The Hoyas dominate this match-up as Patrick Ewing and Reggie Williams tear apart Corliss Williamson and Dwight Stewart on the inside. The Hoyas, still seething after their loss in the preliminary rounds (1985 title game) to Villanova 1985, are still fired up and pull away from the Razorbacks late in the first half. The Razorbacks aren’t able to react and as a result Nolan Richardson’s vaunted “40 minutes of Hell” only lasts for 18 minutes as John Thompson‘s Hoyas show the Razorbacks what real attitude is, pouring it on in the 2nd half.


#1 UNLV 1990 def. #8 UMass 1996 – John Calipari (in his first stint coaching a smaller program before ditching them for the pot of gold) comes into this game with high hopes after splitting games against #1 seed Kentucky 1996, but he’s in for a surprise against Jerry Tarkanian’s amoeba defense. The Runnin’ Rebels are still firing on all cylinders after their 30-point drubbing of Duke 1990 in the preliminary rounds (1990 title game) and their defense suffocates Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso. Marcus Camby has a big game statistically (20 and 10), but his output gets matched by Larry Johnson. Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon and Anderson Hunt have a field day against the Minutemen perimeter players. It’s such a laugher that Tark doesn’t even bother taking out his towel except to hand it to the subs as he gives them a curtain call. After the game John Calipari announces that he will be leaving UMass to take over at UCLA 2008, which felt that it should have been in the tournament.

#5 Duke 1991 def. #4 UNC 1987 – Duke’s first national championship team comes in cocky against its bitter rival UNC 1987, who didn’t even make the Final Four.  After a first half where a healthy Kenny Smith repeatedly blows by Bobby Hurley to find JR Reid for open jumpers and dunks, Coach K lights up his team in the locker room.  Christian Laettner takes K’s challenge and takes over the game in the second half, fueling a comeback that features a Grant Hill lob dunk that takes JR Reid’s arm with it.  Smith, searching for a college ring so that he can continue to jab Charles Barkley on tv, takes a contested jumper at the buzzer that draws iron, and Duke 1991 escapes with the hard-fought victory.

#3 Duke 2001 def. #6 Michigan 1993 – Michigan 1993 came into this game as a favorite in Vegas due to the cache of the Fab Five, but the oddsmakers had forgotten that the quintet of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson never beat a team with “Duke” emblazoned across the front of its jersey.  Duke used hot three-point shooting by Mike Dunleavy, Jr., and Jason Williams to grab an early lead before the Wolverines fought back in the second half behind Juwan Howard’s stellar mid-range game.  Late in the second half, a key charge call on a drive by Chris Webber (taken by Shane Battier) would have given Michigan the lead, erupting cries of Duke favoritism among the fans and media at the game.  Michigan never recovered, and Duke moved on to the Sweet Sixteen.

#2 UCLA 1995 def. #10 Syracuse 2003 – The Harrick Bruins ran their corps of athletic wings (Toby Bailey, JR Henderson, Kris Johnson) at Carmelo Anthony, who struggled getting open looks against the long UCLA defenders.  Meanwhile, Tyus Edney and Cameron Dollar effectively launched the Bruin offense while bottling up Cuse’s G-Mac from three.  The wiser, more experienced UCLA team quickly got a big lead on the much-younger Orange and put the game away early in the second half.  Jim Boeheim was later seen writing a letter to the NCAA compliance department for some unknown reason.


#1 Kentucky 1996 def. #9 Louisville 1986 — Kentucky’s defense proved too much for this group of champion Cardinals in this version of the Interstate 64 rivalry.  The inside battles were interesting with Ellison and Thompson having to deal with a slew of Wildcats thrown at them.  The Louisville guards, though, despite their skills, could not handle UK’s interchangeable parts at that position and the size and quickness differences were noticeable.  This one was close at the beginning.  Not at the end.

#5 Kansas 1997 def. #4 UNLV 1987 — An absolute war, here.  But UNLV’s quickness and athleticism were (just barely) overcome by the physicality, maturity, and outright hustle inherent in Kansas’ balanced attack.  This was a Kansas squad with basically no weaknesses that should have done more, and this UNLV team, man-for-man, was frustrated by this Jayhawk team’s various weapons on both the inside (Pollard, LaFrentz) and the outside (Vaughn, Pierce).

#3 UNC 2005 def. #6 Memphis 2008 — An amazing matchup.  The McCants/May duo again benefitted from Marvin “The X-Factor” Williams having a strong game and in the end the discipline of the Heels overcame the Tigers’ quickness and athleticism.  Memphis certainly possesses better individual athletes but in the final analysis it’s about getting it done on the floor as a cohesive unit, and this UNC team exhibited that trait a little more, on the whole, than this version of the Tigers.

#2 Duke 1999 def. #7 Indiana 1987 — The Blue Devils rolled in this one, as the Hoosiers simply don’t have the athletes to compete with this group.  Don’t get me wrong, they’ve got their share, but this Duke team came at you from all angles — Brand, Maggette, Avery, Langdon, Battier, Carrawell — and even a few more off the bench.  This was an all-timer of a Duke team that came just a close game short against another all-timer in UConn’s 1999 team, and they handled this IU team in almost all facets.


#8 Oklahoma 1988 def. #1 Connecticut 1999 — And what happened here?  True, this UConn team was one of the greats but it’s the nature of the tournament that sometimes you’ll run into a team which presents awful matchup problems for you.  That’s the case here.  Stacey King against Jake VoskuhlMookie Blaylock against Khalid El-Amin?  Even this UConn bunch (especially El-Amin) couldn’t handle the pace of these Sooners.  This was the best team in an unreal Big Eight that year.  They went 35-4 and got over the 100-point mark in TWENTY GAMES during that season.  Were it not for Danny and the Miracles, we’d be talking about this Oklahoma team as one of the two or three best ever.  UConn 99 was a great one, too, but they ran into a little bad luck by drawing Billy Tubbs‘ amazing 1988 Sooner squad in the second round of our tournament, and they’re the first #1 seed to go down.

#5 Michigan St. 2000 def. #4 Duke 1986 – This game was an all-out war, with Mateen Cleaves living in Johnny Dawkins’ shorts for the majority of the game.  But it was the young Jason Richardson and Morris Peterson on the Michigan St. wings that caused problems for Mark Alarie and David Henderson, as they repeatedly were able to get to the rim for easy layups and dunks.  The game was called using modern rules, which benefited the Big 10 champs who like to grab and hold on nearly every possession.  Jay Bilas was quoted after the game saying that “AJ Granger is wearing his Sweet Sixteen ring,” whatever that means.

#3 Florida 2007 def. #11 Syracuse 1987 – The defending champion Gators capitalized on a green Syracuse team, with a freshman PG (Sherman Douglas) and PF (Derrick Coleman) to go along with Rony Seikaly on the interior.  Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer’s interior passing continually twisted DC’s head on a swivel as they exploited match-up problems to get easy buckets.  On the perimeter, Syracuse decided to not take Lee Humphrey’s shooting stroke seriously, and they quickly found themselves down six threes by halftime as Hump lit it up.  Florida coasted to an easy victory over the upstart Orangemen.

#2 UNLV 1991 def. #7 Kansas 1986 – Danny Manning and Ron Kellogg were no match early for Tark’s stable of athletes, and we think we saw Danny Manning blow out another knee when Stacy Augmon looked at him cross-eyed.  Once KU got its legs under them, however, they managed to make a decent comeback… until Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony stopped trying to throw length-of-the-court lobs and finished off the Jayhawks.

Tomorrow: The Eight Best Teams of the Modern Era!

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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3 responses to “RTC Bracket Second Round Results: Best Team of the Modern Era (1985-2008)”

  1. West says:

    You have four runners-up left, instead of three. Duke 1999, UNLV 1991, Georgetown 1985, and Oklahoma 1988 were all runners-up.

  2. rtmsf says:

    Actually, UNLV 1991 lost in the semis to Duke. Duke then beat Kansas for the title. Three runners-up.

  3. West says:

    That’s right. My bad. I guess I still can’t believe that UNLV 1991 lost at all.

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