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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Straw That Stirs the Drink

Yes, you read all about the so-called chalk, the elite teams, the teams that were supposed to make it to the Final Four. Last night we were blessed with a title game that featured the two best teams in the country, and they did not disappoint.

I had written a few days ago that in a game that featured chalk against chalk, something had to give. I predicted a Carolina victory (this isn't a victory lap, as that was hardly an original thought) because I surmised that the cream beats the chalk, and I thought that Carolina's talent was superior to that of Illinois. Deep down, I suppose I was concerned that an outside shooting team like Illinois had already dodged a bullet in the Arizona game and might not be able to dodge another. It's just hard to win a national title when you rely heavily on the three-point shot

Except they did, in that they rallied furiously from a 13-point halftime deficit with some unconscious outside shooting in the first five minutes of the second half. Unfortunately for the orange and blue squad, they couldn't sustain that torrid pace, and in the end they shot 30% from behind the arc. That stat just isn't good enough to win you a championship game, especially where your inside game was almost shut down (Powell and Augustine weren't factors; Ingram did a good job). It is hard for a perimeter team to string together six very good shooting games to win the title, but Illinois almost did just that. Unfortunately, the key word was "almost."

Carolina was just a tad better.

The cream, in the form of Carolina PG Raymond Felton, who certainly had to up his stock with NBA scouts after last night's game (hitting clutch shots, making a key steal in the final minutes), and in PF/C Sean May, excelled last night. May not only solidified his status as a lottery pick, he probably guaranteed a top-3 selection. He showed a ton of good inside moves, defended well, shot fouls well and handled the ball well on a break. In the end, not only did the cream rise to the top, but it was May who stirred the coffee. He was everywhere, and Illinois had no answer for him.

Thanks to Illinois and North Carolina for giving us a great title game. Thanks to Bruce Weber and Roy Williams for doing a great job with their teams, and thanks to Bill Self and, yes, Matt Doherty, for recruiting the talent that populated the Illini and Tar Heel rosters. It was a fine way to end the college basketball season.


Blogger Ralph Hickok said...

It may be worth noting that Illinois set a Final Four record for 3-point attempts with 40.
The Illini outshot North Carolina, 70-52, but had only 30 shots from 2-point range, against 36 for the Tarheels.

8:13 PM  

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