Saturday, April 02, 2005

All I want for my birthday is....

An Illini Victory. Well, okay, in all honesty I want two. My birthday is on April 2nd. For that reason alone, I expect an Illini victory over Louisville. Beyond that, though, it is amazing to me how many people I have talked to, who say that after the way Illinois came back to beat Arizona, how could you not believe they are going to finish the job and win the national championship. I for one agree with that sentiment.

Bright and early tomorrow morning (well today actually now that I look at the time), Oskee Mom Mom, the Illinette and I will load up the Illinimobile and head for Oskee Mom Mom's parents. From there, Red Rock and I will head to St. Louis to watch the Illini battle Louisville in the Final Four. Yes, that's right, Good Hope Orange has managed to procure two tickets to tonight's and Monday's games. No April Fools.

Chief and I have been discussing the possibility of doing some live blogging during the game if we can make it work. Not sure if that is going to happen but I am sure Chief will let you know via a post if that is going to be the case.

There have been so many articles and coverage of the Illini this week, it has been hard to keep up. Chief has done a great job of providing you with links to some of the better ones and hopefully all of you have been able to check some of the others out as well. I don't have time to provide links tonight, but Sports Illustrated's website has a lot of experts favoring the Illini. Glad to see Illinois getting more respect. Haven't checked out ESPN today, though how many of you would be shocked if they are favoring North Carolina?

Illinois vs. Louisville. Illinois has to be patient and take their time against Louisville's zone. They can get great shots if they work the clock and pass like they are capable. Louisville has a lot of similarities to the Illini, but Illinois' guard should be quicker and have to take advantage of that as they will be at a height disadvantage. Augustine has a favorable matchup and has the potential for a big game and could be the difference maker. He will want to make amends for a subpar performance against Arizona. Illinois also needs another strong defensive effort and I look for Head and Williams to lock down Garcia.

I think the pressure is off the Illini. They have made it to the Final Four and now they should be able to relax and play their game. Although dome's can be tough to shoot in, I think the Illini will come out firing on all cylinders. No score prediction but as for who will win I think you already know where I stand when it comes to the Illini. I feel very good about Illinois' chances.

North Carolina vs. Michigan State
I think everyone and their dog is picking North Carolina to win this game. I think part of that is they are really hoping to see Illinois vs. North Carolina in the title game. In all seriousness, I have seen a few people who have picked Michigan State. Although I could be wrong (it wouldn't be the first time or the last), I don't see this is a North Carolina blowout.

Tom Izzo now has the second highest tournament winning percentage (behind only the legendary John Wooden) and his team is playing their best basketball of the year. In addition, they should feel very little pressure. No one expected them to be here despite their talent. At the same time, getting this far also removed some of the criticism of Michigan State's seniors for failing to live up to their potential, especially in big games. On the flip side, I believe North Carolina faces the most pressure of any of the Final Four teams. This is due to how much talent people believe they have, the expectation that North Carolina should win championships every year, and finally the need for Roy Williams to get over the hump. This pressure may weigh on them. Again, no score prediction but I have a nagging feeling that this game just might be there for the Spartan's taking if (and it's a big if) they can control Sean May.

Tonight we will know the final two teams standing. GO ILLINI (and what the heck, go Spartans)!!!

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