Tuesday, April 05, 2005

My Final Thoughts on a Great Year!

This Illini team will always be remembered for its team play, motion offense, excellent guard play, stifling defense, and the long-ball. It should also be remembered for its heart and never say die attitude. We haven't seen that in a team in quite some time.

On so many occasions this year they could have mailed in the loss (at Wisconsin, at Michigan State, at Michigan, at Purdue, at Iowa, and against Arizona. Most times they rallied back on the strength of each other's shoulders and trust in their selfless play. There was no single superstar on this team. They were the hottest ticket in men's basketball this year right from the very beginning with impressive wins against some of the biggest names in the game.

But, there was always that one team lurking out there in the field of 65 that concerned me. Actually, Carolina had been on my radar screen since January. They had the system, the coach, the players, and the tradition to pull it off. And, they did.

So many numbers, figures, and statistics surround this team. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • 37-2; only 2 other teams can say that (Duke twice and UNLV).
  • But no other team has more NCAA tourney wins without a title to its name.
  • I don't know exactly how many 3's we took this year, but figure about 25 / game over the 39 games. We shot almost 40% as a team for the year from downtown.
  • 100 years of b-ball tradition. Over 1500 shool wins. Zero titles.
  • Name a better 3-guard backcourt in recent history than Head, Williams, and Brown.
  • #1 team in the land since December 7th; some 16 or 17 weeks in that spot.
  • 17 of the 37 wins came against 2005 tourney teams.
  • 12 for 40 from behind the ARC against UNC Monday night. I would have liked 14/40.

Doyel Says it Best.....

Taken from sportswriter Gregg Doyel on the Illini place in history after the gut-wrenching loss to UNC.

Rallying to beat Arizona in Chicago was a sign of greatness. Doing it against No. 2 North Carolina, with all those future No. 1 NBA Draft picks, would have clarified what should already have been clear: The 2004-05 Illini were one of the most impressive teams ever to play college basketball.

No one will say that now, even if it's true.

Fact of the matter, it might still be true. Illinois tied an NCAA record with those 37 wins, and 17 of them came against 2005 NCAA Tournament teams. They were 5.1 seconds from perfection, denied a 38-0 record entering Monday night by Sylvester's 3-pointer in Ohio State's 65-64 victory on March 6.

Until Williams, Head and Dee Brown this season, no team had seen three guards earn first- or second-team All-America honors.

A 15-point comeback in the final 3:50 of a region championship game against a team with Arizona's NBA talent and Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson? A 15-point comeback in the second half against a team with North Carolina's NBA talent and its (future) Hall of Fame coach, Roy Williams? These things weren't possible; yet for Illinois, they were.

The 2005 college basketball season will be remembered for its excellence.

At least 10 teams entered conference tournament week with a realistic shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament -- not because the country had so few dominant teams, but so many. The NCAA Tournament featured historic upsets like Bucknell over Kansas and Vermont over Syracuse, the second round finished off brackets all over the country, and three region championships went to overtime for the first time.

Months after a record number of high school players entered the 2004 NBA Draft, college basketball didn't just survive in 2004-05. On the macro-level, college basketball celebrated one of the best seasons ever.

It's too bad. Illinois, on the micro-level, almost did the same.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Wasn't meant to be.  Posted by Hello

Bill Murray supporting the troops.  Posted by Hello

Wasn't meant to be...

That was a great championship game - living up to a #1 vs. #2 matchup. In the end, it was just too large of a hurdle to overcome. UNC won the game down in the post. We had no answers for Mr. May. But, the guys went down fighting - never giving up until the very last shot. We had our chances, but it just wasn't meant to be.

Don't get me started on the officiating, especially in the first half. Augustine goes 9 minutes, 5 fouls, and 0 points - yeah; right! But, I think Carolina had more answers and built up a big 1st-half lead which proved to be too much to overcome.

On a personal note, this was a great Illini team. Actually, at 37-2 - this will go down as one of the best TEAMS in Illini history. What a great year for 2nd - year coach Bruce Webber.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

what a great tandem.  Posted by Hello

Coach Bruce goin' crazy on the sideline.  Posted by Hello

Webber congratulates Powell after a great performance! Posted by Hello

Roger's post play was the difference in the 2nd half.  Posted by Hello

Roger's post play in the 2nd half was a difference maker! Posted by Hello

On a mission - 1 more to go!

That was a great all - around effort against Louisville in the National Semi-Final game today. The 2nd half was the difference - Roger Powell was the answer. After shooting it from the outside in the first half, Illinois bucked-up in the 2nd half and went to Roger for all the answers. Strong post play was the difference - and smothering defense.

First he shutdown Salim Stoudamire, and today it was Francisco Garcia. Deron Williams knowns how to get it done at both ends of the court. He is a difference maker. Luther got hot in the 2nd half with the 3-ball and that helped too.

The March to the Arch is almost complete. 1 more game to go.

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