April 05, 2005

Note to All Basketball Talking Heads

The game was tied at 70 with 1:32 left. I agree that Illinois couldn't stop Sean May and that he was the dominant player on the floor, but if North Carolina is such a great team, as that huge chip on Roy Williams' shoulder kept emphasizing after the game, then why did North Carolina need such an obviously dominant player to pull out the victory? And anyway, couldn't we have waited for Sean May to get to the NBA before he started to get NBA calls? If, if Illinois had pulled it out, wouldn't the story line have been what a great team Illinois is and that despite having great talent, North Carolina just couldn't jell as a team. I only bring this up to indicate how such a thin margin changes the story line. Considering how close the game turned out to be, it is clear that too much credit is given to the winners and too much, well, something other than credit, is dished out to the losers in these games. Gee, sometimes you'd think Big Media would like to even the playing field a little more. Nah.

Over on ESPN News, Bruce Weber is mentioning the calls going a little one-sided now as well.

Enough sour grapes.

Posted by Charles Austin at April 5, 2005 12:56 AM

I was rooting for Illinois also, although for reasons of liking the Big Ten more so than being an Illinois fan (you can see evidence of this at my own blog if you check out the last few days of posts- http://through-a-glass-darkly.blog-city.com/). But I gotta tell you, the whining is pretty unbecoming. The truth is that this wasn't the first game where Illinois let good teams pull away from them. And if they were really that great a team, then how come they couldn't put away Ohio State at the end of the year and maintain a chance for the first perfect season since 1976? I know as a die hard fan, the loss has to hurt. But it was a Hell of a season and not winning it all doesn't take away from that.

Posted by: Doug at 08:14 AM

Tough loss. I know how you feel. But similarly as I said last year, there are 62 other teams that would love to trade places with Illinois this year.

Posted by: Jon at 10:25 AM

Up to 1 1/2 minutes left in the game, the Illini were still the #1 team in the country. It could have gone either way, but c'est la vie. This is what you get with a one-and-done tournament. That's why they call it March Madness - someone's gonna go away mad.

Sean May was the difference for UNC. The Illini had a chance to cut off the head(Felton) but let him off the hook. He came back to bite them at the end of the game. It's a shame that Augustine had a bad game, but the Fighting Illini have no reason to hang their heads. They came up a little short for 92 seconds.

Posted by: MarcV at 12:53 PM

Welcome to CBS, land of never-met-an-ACC-team-we-wouldn't-praise-effusively. I'm so sick and tired of hearing Billy Packer prattle on about UNC and North Carolina and the rest that I just tune him out. Yes, Illinois didn't have the beef inside to deal with May. North Carolina had neither the speed on the perimeter or the cajones to try to fight through screens to defend the three point shots from Illinois. Add in the complete disappearance of Felton and McCants in the second half and you have a stalemate. In the end, the shots didn't fall for Illinois in the last 90 seconds the way they did for most of the second half and North Carolina won. Play this game ten times, and I bet Illinois wins at least 5. I said on my blog that we Louisville fans have nothing to be ashamed of in losing to a great Illinois team. Illini fans have nothing to be ashamed of in losing to a great UNC team that just happened to come out on top this time. I suspect the Final Four in 2006 or 2007 will look a lot like the Final Four this year.

And Coach Williams, don't think for a second that the monkey's off your back. You got your title, but you still blew a 15 point lead and almost gave another one away. But maybe that's just the former Jayhawk in me talking. Maybe in real life, you're not a scumbag.

Posted by: Fred at 01:19 PM

First of all, Illinois should be congratulated for their great season. But the blather about the refereeing should be beneath you.

Sean May didn't get NBA calls. Roger Powell tried to flop his way to foul calls and the refs weren't having it. That's just the way it goes when you're overmatched; the refs won't bail you out of a bad switch.

Those screens were illegal on numerous occasions. The refs didn't blow the whistles. And that's just the way it is.

As for not defending the 3... Didn't Illinois shoot 30% from behind the arc? Golly, but what would UNC have done if they'd played good D against the 3-point shooters of Illinois? 12.5% maybe?

Finally, Billy Packer is not an ACC guy. That S.O.B. consistently hates UNC and Duke. He's a Wake Forest guy and barely controls his contempt for the more prominent in-state rivals. Blast him all you want for being a terrible announcer. He is that. Call him boring. Call him arrogant. Call him all sorts of other things. But one thing he is not is a fan of schools located in North Carolina that aren't named Wake Forest.

Posted by: Birkel at 03:12 PM

Birkel, my apologies for carrying my whinging over to your site. That was unwarranted. Feel free to delete it if you like.

But I can respond to items here...

I've tried really hard to not complain, but failed. I'll drop it after this. Frankly, I mention it not because of the past but the future. It just seems like any Midwestern team not named Kansas just doesn't get many breaks when going up against any of the annointed "elite teams". This is a matter of belief and is not really subject to argument or proof.

I concur on the illegal screens, but not on your characterization of the Powell flops. Maybe I'm a purist, but I've always believed in the principle of existence, i.e., you can't push me off a spot on the floor just because your bigger than I am. That is what I am referring to when I mention the NBA. As I heard someone here say today, Augustine's fouls wouldn't have bruised a peach, but can you honestly say that Powell wasn't fouled on his three consecutive offensive rebounds and putbacks? Someone I know who played (not an Illinois fan) said that in his opinion, two refs were calling the game loose and one was calling it tight. Bad luck that the tight calls seemed to go one way. Illinois' bad luck is not North Carolina's fault and I do not mean to imply that it is. As to shooting percentages, Illinois hasn't been shooting threes well for a month. I don't know why, but I'd guess about 30 of those 40 threes went up as relatively clean looks. They just didn't fall. I expect that the threes late didn't fall because the players were spent. Only getting 9 minutes out of Augustine contributed mightily to that. Illinois was not a deep team or a big team, and taking the only starter over 6'6" out of the game certainly made it a lot tougher. I would note that someone asked how Illinois would do if Deron Wiliams only played 9 minutes, when I asked about Sean May only playing 9 minutes. Well, in fact, when Illinois played Wake Forest, Deron was on the bench for the half after about two minutes for picking up two fouls and Illinois managed nicely, thank you.

As to Billy Packer, perception must be everything. Perhaps Billy packer is a thorn in the side to UNC and Duke fans, but for those of not living on the east coast, he is definitely an ACC fan.

There are many other points I'd love to expound upon, but there's little point, and this way of doing it isn't really conducive to a productive, respectful exchange of ideas.

You have a great site and you should enjoy the experience. Alas, it is one I will almost certainly never enjoy becuase there isn't anything approaching a level playing field.

Que sera sera.

Posted by: charles austin at 05:50 PM

Greetings, congratulations on a FANTASTIC season, and condolensces on your loss from a UNC fan.

My take, FWIW:

1. Officiating is always murky and disputable. I have to admit, I was flabbergasted at the two early ticky-tack fouls against Felton. But they put us into the point zone, which Illinois couldn't seem to crack...so they helped us in the end. Some of those fouls on Augustine I didn't get, either, but we didn't have the angle. When we DID see the tape, they looked like fouls to me on the replay. Still, even I held my head and said 'oh no, oh no, oh no' when Augustine got those two fouls within 10 seconds of each other (or whatever it was). I didn't want to see him--and Illinois--go out like that. But also--as noted above--the failure to call the moving screens on Illinois at the end of the game hurt UNC.

2. Billy Packer hates UNC with an undying passion. As noted above, he's a Wake fan. I usually won't even listen to a game he broadcasts. I turn him off and tune the radio to Woody Durham's local broadcasts.

3. I agree that there's too much pro-ACC propaganda. It's media BS. There's always got to be a superstar, be it a person or a conference. Stupid.

4. Fred: There's no monkey on Roy's back. That's silly. People forget that even getting to the Final Four is practically a miracle. Winning it doubly--or quadruply--so. But you are pretty much right on another point: play this game 10 times, Illinois probably wins 5 times--or more. I feel luck to beat them, as does every other rational UNC fan.

Congrats again, Illinois. It was an honor to compete against you, and a great achievement to have won. A great achievement in part because we all know how very, very easily things could have gone the other way.

Posted by: Winston Smith at 06:53 AM


First of all, you're always welcome to come to our site to write anything you wish. You seem like a good guy and a good basketball fan to boot so I definitely want an exchange like this. (Please forget about williamodouglas' postings over in our comments section. I can't stand that guy.) I think Illinois and Coach Weber deserve a lot of praise for the manner in which they conducted themselves. And if Weber can continue to coach good character guys they'll start to get those big time recruits before you know it. He's young enough to build a solid year-after-year contender before he's done.

When I typed "that's just the way it is" above, I meant it's true that the refs missed calls. But missed them on both sides, to my mind. (More pointedly, I think Carolina walked a couple times, a complaint I haven't read in the blogosphere.) We can agree to disagree about the Powell flop/May charge question. I do see your point but think if Powell had overwhelmed McCants (or some other smaller defender) you'd probably think as I do w/rt May.

I know the perceptions the Mid-West has of the ACC after attending the UofM and living in Ann Arbor, MI for a total of 5 years. And I know the Big Ten(11) has a certain chip on its shoulder when the country turns to college basketball. But surely the Flint-Stones of MSU were heaped with praise. Ditto the Fab Five who had the misfortune of facing two pretty good ACC teams.

But yeah, I guess there's some East Coast bias. But let's all come together on this overarching issue:

We should start a letter writing campaign to CBS about the failings of Billy Packer. Perhaps we can engineer a Dan Rather-style takedown!!

Will you help me on this quest?

Posted by: Birkel at 10:18 AM

Birkel - Re: Packer, but, of course.

As to the walking, I noticed it but chalked that up to the refs can't catch everything. To think otherwise gets dangerously close to being a conspiracy nut. Honestly, my complaint is not with the officiating of the game itself as much with the enforcement, or lack thereof, of the rules as directed by the NCAA. I'm a purist at heart and hate to see the game lessened by all the walking, carrying, moving screens, offensive charges, etc., that weren't allowed when I played so many years ago. I might like the result if Powell abused McCants on the low post, but I hope I'm honest enought to still say its wrong.

Finally, I don't blame the ACC or its fans for being popular. Hell, I don't even blame Coach K for taking advantage of the system to promote himself and Duke. I just would like Big Media to be a bit more balanced, and to be fair, I'm sure there are some teams in the ACC that feel more than a bit slighted when it comes to Coach K, and now maybe Coach W. Fortunately, we do get a tournament every year to end the arguments -- and start some others. :)

Posted by: charles austin at 12:06 PM

Yes, I'm sure there'll be lots more arguments as the sports blogging world grows.

I'll find out how to E-mail CBS about Packer.

Best regards.

Posted by: Birkel at 03:11 PM