Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Championship Observations

Random thoughts on the "unexpected" (at least by me) North Carolina win over Illinois.

--While I underestimated the impact that N.C. center Sean May would have on the game, I also underestimated the level of protection he would be given by the game officials. Maybe you can call it sour grapes, but it sure looked to me like this guy came in with a reputation that the officials...for some reason...were of a mind to preserve. What I mean by that is it seemed that May was able to move around at will knowing it was unlikely that an offensive foul would be called on him. Meanwhile, it seemed that every time an Illini defender got close to this outstanding player he would be whistled for a foul. Was I seeing the game with orange-colored glasses?

--I was most disappointed in two Illini players. James Augustine and Dee Brown.

Augustine will say today that he was whistled for some very questionable fouls on his way to fouling out of the game. And he may be right. But, in a national championship game you can not get yourself into a situation where a "ticky-tack" foul call will take you out of the game and put your team in such a weakened position. Not a smart game by a guy who was dominant in the Big Ten tournament just a few weeks ago.

Brown was not the "dynamic force" defensively, or offensively, that we're used to seeing. Many Illini games this season featured Brown making steals followed by driving layups. Brown also could be counted on for long-range jumpshots at key times. Brown was barely visible, particularly at crunch time, in last night's game.

Some would say Luther Head cost the Illini the game with a turnover and a couple of missed shots in the last :90 seconds. I would disagree. He, at least, was obviously doing all he could to get a win. He obviously wanted the ball and was trying to make things happen.

--Finally, I hope that the national television audience noticed the difference in the comments made by the respective coaches after the game.

Illini coach Bruce Weber...when finally asked to make his post-game observations on national TV...was gracious toward his players, the Illini fans and the experience in St. Louis. He also went out of his way to compliment North Carolina, and Sean May in particular, as being the better team last night. Weber has displayed nothing but grace and class from the beginning of the tournament, to it's end last night. Now he needs to get a voice coach.

Meanwhile, Roy Williams, the North Carolina coach, had absolutely nothing to say about Illinois. It was all me, and us, and ours, and we. "I'm happy for myself, my family, the N.C. fans, and my team". Never did he give credit to Illinois for even being on the court. While Williams is a likeable guy most of the time, I thought at least he could have given a bit of credit to his vanquished opponent. I don't think it was a show of disrespect, but I think it was a display of the lack of class that Williams has been accused of at times.

I would hope the parents of kids who may be in the process of choosing what university their student-athlete will attend noticed the same difference in the two coaches that I observed.

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