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Ultimate Miners Bracket: (3) 1984 Miners vs (14) 1988 Miners

Ah to be a young Miner fan in the 1980's. Beginning in 1984, Don Haskins started a run that saw 8 of the next 9 Miner teams reach the NCAA Tournament. 1984 was the year of Ghostbusters, The Terminator, the Superbowl Champion L.A. Raiders and of course a dominant 9th ranked UTEP Miners team led by Fred Reynolds and Luster Goodwin. 1988 was the year of Die Hard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Superbowl Champion Washington Redskins and of course more excellent basketball from a 1988 squad that featured Chris Sandle, Chris Blocker, Tim Hardaway, Wayne Campbell, and Antonio Davis. The question is which was the better team?

(3) 1984 UTEP Miners
27-4 (13-3, 1st in WAC)

Fred Reynolds (SR)
Luster Goodwin (JR)
Kent Lockhart (JR)
Kevin Hamilton (SO)
Juden Smith (SO)
Dave Feitl (SO)
Donnell Allen (JR)
Paul Cunningham (SR)
Quintan Gates (FR)
Jeep Jackson (FR)
Anthony Bailey (SR)
Don Bronson (SO)
Lemuel Clanton (FR)

TEAM STATS ___ FG% ___ FT% ___ RPG ___ APG ___ BLK ___ STL ____ PPG
UTEP Miners ___ 47.6 ___ 70.0 ___ 33.2 ____ 13.3 ___ 2.6 ___ 5.7 _____ 67.8
Opponents _____ 44.0 ___ 65.2 ___ 30.6 ____ 9.7 ____ 1.6 ___ 4.5 _____ 59.9

-Swept New Mexico State
- Beat #10 Indiana at home by 4
- Beat #15 Michigan and Arizona in Sun Carnival Classic
-Started the season 15-0
-Beat Wyoming and New Mexico to win the WAC Tournament in El Paso
-The 1984 Miners played 5 regular season games against eventual NCAA Tournament teams going 4-1. They beat the Karl Malone led Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Indiana Hoosiers, BYU Cougars, and Alcorn State Braves by a combined 37 points and their only loss came to BYU on the road by 18.

The '84 Miners were given a first round bye and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Miners played the 5-seeded UNLV Runnin' Rebels in the second round and lost by 13. Tarkanian's UNLV squad would go on to lose in the very next round to eventual National Champ Georgetown. The rest of the Final Four in 1984 included the Houston Cougars, Virginia Cavaliers, and Kentucky Wildcats.

(14) 1988 UTEP Miners
23-10 (10-6, 4th in WAC)

Chris Sandle (SR)
Chris Blocker (SR)
Tim Hardaway (JR)
Wayne Campbell (SR)
Antonio Davis (SO)
Terry Stallworth (JR)
Jerry Jones (SO)
Eddie Williams (SO)
Prince Stewart (FR)
Keith Manuel (SO)
Mark McCall (FR)
Sean Harris (FR)
Shelton Boykin (FR)

TEAM STATS ___ FG% ___ FT% ___ RPG ___ APG ___ BLK ___ STL ___ PPG
UTEP Miners ___ 50.4 ___ 67.3 ___ 33.7 ____ 14.6 ___ 4.0 ___ 7.8 ____ 70.3
Opponents _____ 44.0 ___ 66.5 ___ 32.7 ____ 12.8 ___ 2.2 ___ 5.6 ____ 63.5

- Split season series with New Mexico State
- Beat Boston College and UAB to win the Sun Carnival Classic
- Split season series with both Wyoming and BYU, both of which were ranked in the Top 25 throughout the 1988 season.
- The 1988 Miners only had 2 teams on their regular season schedule that made it to the post season: Wyoming and BYU. However they played each of these teams 3 times for a total of 6 games and went 3-3. They beat the Cowboys at home but lost to them on the road and in the WAC Tournament Championship game. They beat the Cougars on the road in overtime and in the WAC Semifinal, but lost to them at home.

The 1988 Miners limped into the NCAA Tournament. Antonio Davis broke his ankle during the WAC Tournament and Chris Blocker, the Miners' second leading scorer, was ruled academically ineligible right before the Big Dance. The Miners were given a 9-seed in the Tourney and lost to 8-seeded Seton Hall 80-64, despite Chris Sandle dropping 28 points in his last game as a Miner. The Miners were outrebounded by the Seton Hall Pirates by almost 20. Seton Hall would get blown out in the next round by top-seeded Arizona. The Final Four in 1988 included National Champion Kansas, Oklahoma, Duke, and Arizona.

The 1984 Miners obtained the 3rd best regular season in school history and rose to as high as #5 in the AP Poll during the season, finishing the season ranked 9th. They also hold the best home record in Miner history going 21-0 in El Paso and held their opponents to under 60 points per game.

The 1988 Miners were snakebitten towards the end of the year finishing with just 8 guys on the roster by season's end and had to deal with two other nationally ranked teams in their conference. 1988 was the year Tim Hardaway set the school record for assists in a year with 183. The '88 Miners got to the free-throw line very often, setting the Miner record for most trips to the line (842) and making 67.3% of them. They also shot better than 50% from the field, showing that this team knew how to get into the paint and either score or get fouled.

All of that is what the statistics say about this matchup. Unfortunately, I was not around to see either of these teams play, so I really can't give a nuanced analysis of the head-to-head matchup. Those of you who were around in the 80's can post details in the comments section if you'd like. For me though, I can only vote based on the stats and it is hard to argue with a 27-4 overall record and 4-1 record against NCAA Tourney teams. The '88 team averaged and allowed more points per game, but the addition of the 3 point line certainly had something to do with this. As always, your votes decides who goes on in the Ultimate Miners Bracket.

Last week we had our closest matchup yet, with the 1963 Texas Western Miners storming back to beat the 1986 Miners by just 4 votes. I have a feeling chris87's comment at the bottom of the post convinced some voters to go with the 63 team, which shows how important personal insights and memories can be in swaying the matchups. Big shout out to anyone who posts about the matchups. The current bracket looks like this then:

(1) 1966 Texas Western Miners
(9) 1987 UTEP Miners

(5) 1992 UTEP Miners
(13) 1963 Texas Western Miners

(3) 1984 UTEP Miners or (14) 1988 UTEP Miners (This week's matchup
(6) 1989 UTEP Miners or (11) 1975 UTEP Miners

(7) 2010 UTEP Miners or (10) 2005 UTEP Miners
(2) 1964 Texas Western Miners or (15) 1985 UTEP Miners