I think a lot of readers might be under the impression that the 1966 Miners should run away with this tournament. I mean they are the only Miner team in history to go all the way in the actual NCAA Tournament and make history. But that shouldn't keep you from voting or dismissing their opponent in the UMB Final Four. The 1992 team played in an expanded NCAA Tournament and beat the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks before losing by just 2 to Cincinnati in the Sweet Sixteen. That same Cincinnati team went on to blast Memphis State in the Elite Eight and barely lost to Michigan in the Final Four. A few extra points against the Bearcats in the Sweet Sixteen and the 1992 Miners could have been the second Miner team to make history.
Before the matchup, here's a piece from a 1992 Sportscenter on how 1992's win over Kansas helped shine the light again on the 1966 Championship team. So here it is, the first Final Four matchup:
|Overall Record||Conf. Record||Results vs eventual NCAA Tourney Teams|
|1966 TWC Miners||28-1||n/a||2-0 (both wins against Colorado State)|
|1992 UTEP Miners||27-7||12-4 (tied for 1st in WAC)||3-3 (wins against NMSU, Texas, and BYU and losses against BYU twice and NMSU)|
ROSTERS & INDIVIDUAL STATS
|1966 TWC Miners||YR||FG%||AST||BLK||STL||RPG||PPG|
|Bobby Joe Hill||JR||41.1||-||-||-||3.0||15.0|
|1992 UTEP Miners||YR||FG%||AST||BLK||STL||RPG||APG|
|David Van Dyke||SR||54.9||30||116||52||6.4||13.9|
Both of these teams featured a rotation that went 7-8 deep usually. Both teams featured 3 senior leaders (Lattin, Artis, and Flournoy for 66, Maxey, Van Dyke, and Stewart for 92). Both had junior players that were just as important as the senior players (Hill and Shed for 66, and Rivera and Melvin for 92). The only underclassmen receiving significant playing time were guard Willie Worsley and forward Willie Cager for 66, and forward Ralph Davis for 92. If you look at where the points are coming from for both of these teams, there are striking similarities that illustrate the Don Haskins template for winning. There are four guys (usually upperclassmen) averaging double figure scoring at the top, then two guys who nearly average double figure scoring, and then a bunch of guys getting some points here and there off the bench when guys are really in foul trouble. These two teams illustrate that balanced attack perfectly. Not one guy averaged more than 15.2 points per game, which is in stark contrast to the Jim Barnes or Stefon Jackson teams.
|1966 TEAM STATS||FG%||AST||BLK||STL||RPG||PPG|
|1992 TEAM STATS||FG%||AST||BLK||STL||RPG||PPG|
One statistical advantage 1992 has over 1966 is a slight edge in offensive efficiency (47.1% to 44.6%). That efficiency is especially important in this matchup, considering 1966's knack for rebounding. To put it simply, if 1992 doesn't make their shots against 1966, the champs are likely coming down with the rebound. At least that's what the statistics say. The 1966 Miners outrebounded their opponents by 13 per game compared with 1992's edge in rebounding of less than 4 per game. Thanks to David Van Dyke, 1992 also had a huge edge in blocked shots. One has to wonder though how many blocks the intimidating bigs of 1966 (Lattin, Flournoy, Shed) would have racked up. We also have no idea how many assists Bobby Joe Hill recorded.
NOTABLE WINS & LOSSES in REG SEASON
- Beat #4 Iowa Hawkeyes by 18 in Sun Carnival Classic
- Blew out the New Mexico St Aggies twice
- Only loss of the year was at Seattle by 2
- Split the season series with good New Mexico St Aggies team
- Beat Northern Iowa and Texas to win the Sun Carnival Classic
- Beat Washington on the road by 5
- Beat Colorado State and New Mexico in the WAC Tournament before losing to BYU in the Championship thanks to this buzzer beater.
NCAA TOURNAMENT RESULTS
Despite the fact that the Miners had only 1 loss on the season, they were still forced to play in one of the five play-in games that made up the first round of the 1966 tournament. In that regional play-in game the Miners beat Oklahoma City by 15. Awaiting them in the round of 16 were the Cincinnati Bearcats, who along with Kansas and SMU received a free pass to the round of 16. The Miners needed overtime and 29 points from David Lattin to get past the Bearcats 78-76. In what we would now call the Elite Eight, the Miners played and barely defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 81-80. The Miners won both their Final Four matchups by 7 points against the Utah Runnin' Utes and the Kentucky Wildcats. Watch footage here.
The 1992 Miners were given a 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament after losing the WAC Championship in heart-breaking fashion. They edged the Evansville Purple Aces in a defensive struggle in the first round for the right to play the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. Watch the end of that one here. In yet another connection to the 1966 team, the 1992 Miners played both Kansas and Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament. Both teams beat the Jayhawks, but while the 1966 Miners beat the Bearcats by 2, the 1992 Miners lost to the Bearcats by 2 ending their Final Four dreams. Cincinnati would go on to beat the Memphis State Tigers 88-57 to advance to the Final Four in Minneapolis where they would lose to Michigan by 4.
As mentioned throughout, these two teams have a lot in common and their players matchup well enough to make for a really good game. 1966's size was dominating in the 60's, but against later teams that size isn't as impressive. But then again, outside of David Van Dyke's shot blocking, the 1992 team isn't a particularly large team in the post eitther. Both teams featured stout Don Haskins-style defenses. Both teams featured a variety of offensive weapons. Both teams featured a pair of very unique guards in the backcourt in Stewart/Rivera and Hill/Artis. The lineups would look like this in my estimation:
G Bobby Joe Hill, 5-10
G Orsten Artis, 6-1
F Harry Flournoy, 6-5
F David Lattin, 6-6
C Nevil Shed, 6-8
Willie Worsley, Willie Cager
G Rivera, 5-10
G Stewart, 5-11
F Melvin, 6-5
F Maxey, 6-8
C Van Dyke, 6-10
Ralph Davis, Gym Bice, Roy Howard
1992 could go with the 2-guard lineup above to match 1966's explosive guard combo of Hill/Artis and Worsley off the bench or they could move Melvin to the 2 and insert Ralph Davis to have a bigger lineup against the champs.
As always the winner is decided by your votes. What do you think Miner fans?