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The ’88-89 Illini team vs. ’04-05? No contest

Former Illinois guard Stephen Bardo has written book about 1989 Final Four team thhas left Lou Hensfeeling hurt Ken Norman

Former Illinois guard Stephen Bardo has written a book about the 1989 Final Four team that has left Lou Henson feeling hurt and Ken Norman enraged. | Getty Images

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Updated: April 1, 2014 10:34PM

It’s a popular question among Illini fans: Which team was better, the 1988-89 squad that went 31-5 and lost in the national semifinals or the 2004-05 team that went 37-2 and lost in the national title game?

It’s a non-question among the older fellas.

“Those guys are wonderful players. Of course, we all know how Deron [Williams] turned out,” Kendall Gill said. “But the caliber of competition was not the same in 2005. You can go down the line. Every night, it seemed we were playing against two or three NBA players.”

Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head, Roger Powell — a pretty special group, anyone would agree.

“All good, but I couldn’t even compare it. I don’t see it,” Lowell Hamilton said. “They were a different kind of team, but I would have to go with us. We just had a special team.”

Emphasis on “special.” And speaking of emphasis . . .

“We would’ve dominated them,” Nick Anderson said. “There’s no question about it. I don’t even hold my breath to say it. Yep — we would’ve dominated them.”

Steve Greenberg

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