April 04, 2005

Final Four Thoughts

Of course there was no way the three games of Final Four were going to live up to the drama and excitement of the four regional finals. But if tonight's game is as good as any of those last week, this may go down as the best NCAA Tournament ever.

I didn't make it to the game Saturday, but Illinois won anyway. My reverse metaphysics continues to work perfectly. As others have previously noted, someone who is wrong 99% of the time can be just as valuable as someone who is right 99% of the time. I did go down to the Ed on Saturday and looked around with a huge wad of Andrew Jacksons in my pockets, but for the first time in history I was not able to find a ticket available at any price. The market for tickets to this Final Four has exceeded any sporting event I've ever witnessed. Tickets for tonight's game were going for $800 -- if you could find one. Fortunately, I can still get a seat at a local establishment immediately in front of their plasma screen to watch the game.

Illinois was able to beat Louisville primarily for one reason: defense. With defense and 40% shooting from three-point territory, ... two reasons. Illinois was able to beat Louisville primarily for two reasons: defense, 40% shooting from three-point territory and winning the battle of the boards, ... three reasons. Illinois was able to beat Louisville primarily for three reasons: defense, 40% shooting from three-point territory, winning the battle of the boards and committing only thee fouls the rest of the game after picking up seven in the first eight minutes, ... four reasons. Illinois was able to beat Louisville primarily for four reasons: defense, 40% shooting from three-point territory, winning the battle of the boards, committing only thee fouls the rest of the game after picking up seven in the first eight minutes and because Rick Pitino found out that if you manage to stop two or three guys on this team somebody else always steps up, ... five reasons. There are others, but I'll stop here. In a private e-mail that is posted here, I noted that Roger Powell was going to be the key to this game. I swear, I should have put money on the games this year.

Rick Pitino was quite gracious after the game, saying that if they played ten times, Illinois would win eight or nine. He really seemed at peace and happy to have made it to the Final Four. I can only hope that Illinoisans will exhibit the same sense of grace if North Carolina should win tonight.

I've read a lot of stories this weekend saying that Deron WIlliams is Illinois' best defender and that he always get's the other team's best player. Wrong. Bruce Weber has said on many occasions that Deron's defense has been a problem this year and that he generally hasn't played defense this year as well as he did last year. Since the Big 10 Tournament, Deron has turned it up a couple of notches (because he's going to the NBA?). But Illinois' best defender this year has not been Deron Wiliams, nor Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year Dee Brown, but Luther Head. Luther Head is the guy who has consistently been given the assignment of the opposing team's best player. But after Luther tweaked his hamstring in practice last week, Deron has been asked to step up and take over the defensive stopper role that Luther has played. And to his credit and the team's success, he has shown that he can play defense at a very high level. Incidentally, I love Dee Brown and he gets more ESPN SportsCenter type highlights, but the best defense generally doesn't make ESPN SportsCenter's highlight reel nor does it show up in the box score.

In Saturday's second game Michigan State played one excellent half and then, well, it is kind of hard to explain what happened after that. North Carolina isn't as good as they apeared in the second half, nor is Michigan State as bad. I feel good about my pre-game assessment that this game was a tossup based upon the score at the end of the half, but I'll also give credit where it is due and say the better team won.

Which brings us to the championship game tonight: #1 vs. #2. It doesn't get any better than this. I don't know who will win, but I expect Illinois will win by at least ten or North Carolina may win by as much as twenty. I don't expect a close game. Whichever team and style prevails will prevail relatively big.

Bracket update heading into the NCAA Championship game with number of teams remaining in parentheses:

Kirkwood Illiniwek: 39-23 (1)
Kirkwood Illlini: 37-25 (1)
St. Louis Illini: 38-24 (1)
St. Louis Illinois: 47-15 (2)
St. Charles Austin: 42-20 (1)

The St. Louis Ilinois bracket is now tied for 3,936th place out of 2,800,000 entires in ESPN's Tournament Challenge. I have selected Illinois to beat North Carolina 78-72. If this happens, I expect to move into the top 2,000 or so entires, but I have no hope of actaully winning anything in this contest. On the other hand, had I entered any of the office bracket pools I had been entering since time immemorial, I think I probably wold have won this year. Then again, with my reverse metaphysics, maybe my not entering and therefore not picking Illinois to win it all is what got them this far. Who knows? Pshaw, tell me you don't think that your minor, inconsequential choices and actions regarding your sports teams don't have some butterfly effect on the outcome of events.

Oskee Wow Wow baby!

Posted by Charles Austin at April 4, 2005 06:39 PM