Monday, March 28, 2005

Not too shabby, not too shabby at all...

What a great weekend of basketball! That may have been the four best regional final games of any NCAA Tournament I have watched. One game close to the end, two games with overtime, and one game with double overtime. What more could you ask for?

Two Big Ten teams in the Final Four (and almost three!). Not too shabby for a league in a so-called down year. Kudos to the Wisconsin Badgers for taking North Carolina to the wire. They put up a great effort but came up just a little short. And a big time congratulations to the Michigan State Spartans on beating Kentucky. After watching them take out both Kentucky and Duke in a three day period, they certainly have impressed this basketball fan.

If you read my post from when Illinois and Michigan State were preparing to play earlier this season, you would know that I didn't think the Spartans had a run like this in them. They just never seemed to come through in the big games this year and didn't seem to have the heart and determination that our beloved Illini have demonstrated all year. At the time, I believe that was an accurate and fair assessment. However, I think it is obvious that observation is no longer valid. Coach Izzo and his players deserve credit for how much they have improved since Illinois last played them.

Hopefully, Illini fans took time to savor and enjoy Illinois's amazing comeback victory on Saturday. Now that we are beginning a new week, we can look ahead to next weekend. While the team must be focused on Louisville, we have the luxury of also thinking about a potential matchup with either North Carolina or Michigan State. Don't get me wrong, Louisville is not going to be an easy game and they should not be overlooked. But as fans, it is fun to think about Monday's possibilities.

As a Big Ten fan, I will be rooting for Michigan State to beat North Carolina on Saturday. However, I believe that I will probably be in the minority when it comes to this. In fact,'s Stewart Mandel is begging for an Illinois-North Carolina title game. People have been salivating over a potential Illinois-North Carolina matchup. And who can blame them? One game between the two teams that have been considered #1 and #2 virtually the entire season to decide the National Championship. It is certainly appealing, and if it happens, I won't be disappointed. It would be very satisfying to knock off an ACC team that some people have viewed as being better than Illinois. Very satisfying! But I just can't bring myself to cheer for UNC so Go Spartans and GO ILLINI!!!

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