2005-03-28

Final Four


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It's looking like an awesome Final Four this year. I'm still comfortable with my Carolina pick for the Championship, and Louisville is looking good. But I could also see Illinois taking it. Not Michigan State, though. They're the ugly step-sister in this one, but stranger things have happened.

Each team was tested, and needed overtime to advance at some point this weekend.

Carolina and Illinois are head and shoulders above the other two in tonnage of future NBA star power. As much talent the Illini have, however, it will be impossible for them to play any better against Louisville than West Virginia did. Wait. I think Patrick Beilein just made another 3-pointer - this one from his bed back in Morgantown.

Of the four, the Illini have to count themselves as the most fortunate (i.e. lucky) to be heading to St Louis. I had Arizona beating Illinois in the Chicago Region because 1. Illinois is over-rated and under-tested, a collection of talented individuals, not a team, and 2. Arizona is consistently a savvy tournament team whose coach, Lute Olsen, gets the most out of the Wildcats in every game. And, I was right for the first 36 minutes of the clash between these two teams.

During that final four minutes of regulation play, we saw a collapse for the ages. Illinois didn't win so much as Arizona flat out forgot how to play basketball. It's a tired cliche, but this was a textbook case of a team playing not to lose rather than going for the jugular. They were sloppy with the ball. They were tentative. And, while they wisely used every last drop of shot clock, they never seemed to have a plan for what to do in the final seconds of each possession.

Louisville can beat Illinois. I'm just waiting to see if they will.

Overall, I'm sticking with my Carolina pick.

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