April 2, 2005
Illinois is in the championship for the first time ever. This is turning out to be one helluva weekend. Their opponent? The team everyone said they'd be playing all year: North Carolina
While Michigan State would have been much closer had they not shot 33% from the field, MSU did not have a good gameplan. I realize they like to run, but North Carolina is better at it. MSU could not run with UNC. They didn't have the athleticism to do so. I'm a bit surprised that Tom Izzo let his team try to run. Surely he knew that UNC had more fast-break ability. But that's no longer an issue. All that matters is how Illinois plays them.
Illinois will not try to play an up-tempo fast paced game. Wait I'm sorry. I don't know what they'll do but they shouldn't try to run with UNC. It's not that I don't think they can, because they could, but I look at it like this: UNC does not like to play defense, nor are they particularly good at. They let Wisconsin score 82 points. Noone that lets Wisconsin score that many points is good at defense. They get around this by trying to get as many possessions as possible and out-scoring their opponents. Illinois has proved all year that they can play a slower half court game just as effectively as they run. In addition, no team yet has been able to guard Illinois man-to-man, nor will UNC be able to. The teams that stayed close to Illinois have played zone. UNC does not like to play zone. In fact, I don't know if they can play zone. Illinois will do to UNC the same thing they did to Louisville. They slowed the game down and Louisville couldn't guard them in the half-court. Illinois will run their motion offense, score almost at will early on, and they will get in UNC's heads and UNC will get down on themselves (Think Illinois-Wake Forest). Roy Williams won't be able to keep his players' heads in the game and Illinois will win by at least 10. You heard it here first.
Disclaimer: I make no promises, but I think that what I said is the most likely scenario. Besides, it doesn't take any guts to say the game will be close ;)