UNC will win the National Championship
This is what I wrote in a February 4th post on college basketball and UNC:
"I don't care what the records say. I don't care if Illinois is 22-0 and BC is 20-0. The best team in the country is North Carolina and they have two losses."
Since then, the Illini have only lost one game, a heartbreaker in the last game of the regular season at Ohio State. After leading the whole game, Matt Sylvester hit a 3 with less than 10 seconds left, to give Ohio State a 65-64 win on Senior Day. I tried to warn the Illini that this would be a tough game, but I guess Bruce Weber, head coach of Illinois doesn't read my blog. Here is what I wrote a week before the Ohio State game on Sunday February 27th.
"Illinois will try to finish the regular season undefeated, but the Buckeyes will be pumped up as they cannot participate in the NCAA tourney because of a violation, and this game is basically their national championship."
I hate to say it, but I told you that the Buckeyes would be pumped for that game.
It seems almost hard to imagine that less than two months ago BC was still undefeated and cruising through the Big East. They proceeded to go 4-4 in their last 8 games before the tourney, losing to Notre Dame, Villanova, Pitt on Senior Day, and West Virginia in the Big East tournament. They won their first game in the tournament, but the Cinderella team, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee knocked out the Eagles in the round of 32.
UNC has lost two games since February 4th when I declared that they were the best team in college basketball. They lost to Duke by a point at Cameron, and then lost in the ACC semifinals to Georgia Tech. Besides those two hiccups, the Tar Heels have cruised through the season. Their first two games of the tourney were a joke, as they won the two games by a combined score of 55 points. To get to the Final Four, the Tar Heels had a much tougher time than I expected them to have. They almost lost to Villanova, which was playing without their star forward Curtis Sumpter, as they Heels survived and won 67-66. Then on Easter weekend, I expected their game against Wisconsin to be the blowout of the weekend. Wrong! The Tar Heels allowed the Badgers to stay in the game and only beat them by 6, 88-82. In spite of their recent close calls, they will be cutting down the nets on Monday night.
The reason the Tar Heels will be cutting down the nets can basically be summed up in two words: Sean May. Sean May has had an amazing tournament so far, and when the Tar Heels get him the ball on the low block, he is unstoppable. The Illini do not have anybody that can stop May, and they have struggled playing against big strong post players all year long. The latest example was against Arizona, when Channing Frye scored 24 points on 11 of 14 shooting, and grabbed 12 boards. Frye is a great player and will be in the NBA next year, but let me tell you that he is no Sean May (and I'm a huge Arizona fan). May simply dominates whoever he plays against. In the two times he played against Sheldon Williams of Duke this year, he outplayed him both times. In the first game May scored 23 points and had 18 boards in the one point Tar Heel loss. In the rematch game, May scored 26 points, and had 24 boards and literally willed the Heels to victory. It was a performance that I will not forget for years to come. May will have an interesting test in the form of Paul Davis on Saturday night, who is having quite a tournament for himself. Davis is two inches taller than May, and is also listed as 17 pounds heavier than May, although I find that hard to believe. I feel that even though May is smaller and not is heavy, he will come out on top of this important matchup in the Michigan State vs. North Carolina game.
There is another reason that the Tar Heels will win on Monday against Illinois and that is depth. The Tar Heels go 10 deep, while Illinois had two guys that play off the bench in Jack Ingram and Rich McBride. Illinois also has Nick Smith a 7-2 center, but since he did not play against Arizona, I am going to assume that he will not play in the championship game. After all, if you're not going to play your 7-2 center when the opposing team has a center shooting 11 of 14 from the field, when will you play him? Even more important than just the depth that UNC is the quality of that depth. Marvin Williams would be starting on any other team in college basketball and would be averaging over 20 points. Instead, he is the best 6th man in America, and he is likely to be the #1 pick in this year's draft, according to many experts. Marvin is a 6-9 power forward that can shoot the 3 with the best of them, but can also play inside and play tough. In the second round game against Iowa State, Williams had an unbelievable stat line: 26 minutes, 20 points, 15 boards, 1 block, 2 steals, and shot 8 of 12 from the field, and 2 of 4 from behind the arc. This guy is absolutely the best weapon any coach could have coming off the bench. UNC also has a defensive stopper in David Noel, as well as a 3 point threat in Melvin Scott coming off the bench.
After 6 months of college basketball, and 4 months of waiting, college basketball fans are finally going to see the matchup they have been waiting for. UNC vs. Illinois. It doesn't quite have the ring of a Duke vs. UNC game, but it promises to be just as exciting, if not more than those games. At least 6 of the players in this game will be in the NBA within the next two years (Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Marvin Williams). UNC will cut down the nets on Monday and Roy Williams will celebrate in his first championship. The Illini had a great season, but will come up short, because they do not have an answer for Sean May or the depth that Carolina has.
We have waited long enough, and know we will finally get to see the game, and let the results speak for themselves. The results will point to UNC being National Champions for 2005.