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Major Conference Tournament Scoreboard

Through games of 4/4

Conference W-L ATS
ACC 12-4 7-9
Big East 7-6 6-5-2
C-USA 5-3 3-4-1
Big 10 12-5 10-7
Big 12 6-6 6-6
Pac-10 5-4 5-4
SEC 4-4 2-6


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Rick Gagliano

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Season Conclusion, See you in the fall.

This concludes the season for College Basketball Daily. We will begin coverage again in November of 2005.

There may be updates here, in weeks ahead, as circumstances warrant, but be sure to check back in the fall for our first full season of college hoops coverage.

What an amazing season it was. The North Carolina Tar Heels are champions once again!

Our hats off to them and coach Roy Williams.

Good luck and remember, keep practicing those free throws!!!

Signing off for now,
Rick Gagliano, Editor Monday, April 4, 2005

Tar Heels On Top! Capture National Title, 75-70

Rashad McCants poured in 14 first half points and Sean May went for 18 of his 26 in the second half to lead North Carolina to the National Championship, 75-70, over Illinois.

North Carolina proved they could play defense as well, holding the Illini to 28% shooting in the first half and 39% for the game. The Tar Heels were relentless in the first half, building their larest lead of the half, 40-27, with 1:30 left on a layup by McCants, and the score remained there into the break.

Williams clamped down on McCants in the second half and held him scoreless. Ray Felton chipped in with 17, including a key three-pointer and three of four free throws late in the game.

Luther Head, Deron Williams and Roger Powell, Jr. keyed the second half revival for Illinois.

Illinois, who had not been making their 3-pointers early, often missing open looks over the zone, picked it up in the second half and remained within striking distance of the Tar Heels after the 10 minute mark, actually tying the game twice down the stretch.

James Augustine, the Big Ten MVP was in foul trouble throughout and played only nine minutes. Augustine picked up his third foul at 18:55 when McCants drove in the lane. Five seconds later, he picked up his 4th, fouling Jackie Manuel on another penetrating move inside.

Illinois cut the lead to 7 with 16:30 remaining on a 3 by Luther Head.

Williams hit a three to cut it to six, and another cut it to 3. The Illini got to within 2 at 13:00 on a Powell lay-in.

Augustine came in for less than a minute and picked up his fifth foul at 6:49.

Felton fouled Dee Brown at 5:34 and Brown tied the game with two free throws.

Felton came back with a cluth three over Williams and Brown from the top of the arc. Deron Williams got Illinois within one, but Sean May was fouled and hit two free throws to make it 70-67.

Luther Head hit a huge three to tie it at 70 with a three at 2:37. Those would be the final points of the game for Illinois.

After Marvin Williams scored on a tip-in off a McCants miss, Illinois could not find a way to score and when Head turned it over on an attempted kick-out pass that Felton intercepted, the Tar Heels were on their way. Felton was fouled again with 25.8 left and hit one of two to give the Tar Heels a three-point lead.

Luther Head missed a three that would have tied the game. Felton was fouled again at 9.9 and hit both to give Carolina a five point lead. After another missed three by Head, the ball ended up fittingly in Sean May's hands as time expired.

May, playing on his 21st birthday, joins Danny Manning of Kansas from 1988 as the only player to lead the tournament in scoring and rebounding and win the National Championship. To go with his game-high 26 points, May added 9 rebounds and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

The win was especially sweet for coach Roy Williams, who won his first National Championship only two years after returning to his alma mater.

Sunday, April 3, 2005

NCAA Championship Game Preview

Illinois Illini (37-1) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (34-4)
Tip-off Monday, April 4, 2005, 9:21 pm ET

It's finally down to just two teams. Tomorrow night's game will determine who will go into the record books as the 2004-2005 National Champion in NCAA Division I basketball and who will just go home.

Illinois, with its gaudy 37-1 mark, stakes it's claim as top team in the land with a rightful record. They were the #1 ranked team in the country for much of the season, and ranked #1 coming into the tournament. They won the Big 10 title hands down and won the Big 10 tournament to boot. Along the way, the Illini have defeated 8 ranked teams during the regular season (Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Wake Forest, Iowa, Michigan State twice and Wisconsin 3 times). and two more in the tournament (Arizona and Louisville). Their average win margin in the tournament has been 10.1 points. They've earned the right to be here.

North Carolina took a more circuitous, but no less impressive, route to the Championship game, winning the tough ACC Conference title with a gutsy win over arch-rival Duke, then stumbling in the post-season tournament to a re-energized Georgia Tech squad. Besides their season-opening loss to unheralded Santa Clara, they've lost only to ranked teams from their own conference, Duke, Wake Forest and the aforementioned Georgia Tech. They've also dispatched five ranked teams in the regular season - Duke, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Iowa and Connecticut - and three more - Villanova, Wisconsin and Michigan State - in the tournament. The Tar Heels have won their five tournament games by an average margin of 15.6 points. North Carolina doesn't just beat most people, they destroy them.

Offensively, North Carolina has a slight edge, in that they have capable scoring threats in four positions and led the nation in scoring. Defensively, there is no better team than the Illini at keeping the opponent from executing. Illinois point guard, Deron Williams, has already shut down Salim Stoudamire and Francisco Garcia in consecutive games. In this one, he'll go head to head with Rashad McCants who is equally dangerous off the dribble, working without the ball or from three-point range. Williams will have his hands full, but he's proven equal to similar tasks.

Illinois plays a three guard offense, so they have a built in mismatch on offense. While Ray Felton will likely have to handle Williams with McCants on Dee Brown and Jackie Manuel handling Luther Head. Manuel is normally a swingman, and may not be able to match Head's speed. The challenge for McCants is to keep up with Brown and not let him leak out for breakaway baskets.

Down inside, Illinois' James Augustine, Roger Powell, Jr. and sub Jack Ingram will have their hands full with Sean May and the Williams boys, Jawad and Marvin, either of whom can fill it up. May presents the biggest problem for Illinois. To win, they must stop him inside. He's dominated all season and is looking to have the game of his career in the finale. Defensively, May and Marvin Williams can handle anything inside and rebound with the best, but the Illinois frontcourt proved their mettle against a bigger Louisville team and they will bang inside, especially Powell and Ingram. Augustine, more of a finesse player, looks like odd man out, inside.

Either team is capable of winning this game. On paper, it's the dream matchup. On court, it may be a different story, but that's doubtful. This one looks like it will go down to the wire, or nearly, unless one team gets hot. In Las Vegas, they're not buying the Illini record, as they've installed North Carolina as a 2 1/2 point favorite. I picked North Carolina and/or Louisville, so since my "heart" team, the Cardinals, are out, I'll stick with North Carolina, but I'm certain that it won't be easy.

Sunday, April 3, 2005

It's Illinois vs. North Carolina as #1 meets #2 in NCAA Championship

The dream game that college hoops fans have been salivating over for nearly two months - Illinois vs. North Carolina - will be the crowing event of the 2004-2005 basketball season.

Illinois was first in with a rousing victory over Louisville, as Saturday afternoon turned to evening in St. Louis. The Illini sliced through the Louisville 2-3 zone defense like so much Swiss cheese en route to an overwhelming 72-57 win. After the game, Cardinals' coach Rick Pitino was asked why he didn't abandon the zone defense earlier, as it was obvious that the Illinois' players were either shooting over it or passing and driving through it. A great truth was then revealed by the unabashed Pitino: Louisville couldn't play the Illini man-to-man, because the overall speed and quickness of the Illini was superior. Had the Cardinals played straight man, the result would likely have been a more lopsided score. At least that's what coach Pitino thought, and he should know, he's been around the game long enough.

As it was, once the Illini got going, about five minutes into the second half, the game was well on its way to being over. Louisville could not stop Roger Powell, Jr., who scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, or Luther Head, who fearlessly bombed away from 3-point range, hitting 6 of 11 en route to 20 points as well. Meanwhile, Deron Williams effectively took Louisville's top scoring threat, Francisco Garcia, out of the game. Garcia was stymied into 2 of 10 shooting, and finished with a mere 4 points. His running mates in the backcourt, Larry O'Bannon and Taquan Dean, were unable to pick up the slack. O'Bannon was 2-5, Dean 2-9 from beyond the arc.

Though Louisville held an advantage in overall size, they were never able to capitalize upon it. Illinois' speed proved to be the difference as they wore the Cardinals out on offense and denied penetration on defense. Inside, Illinois was also winning the battle, as James Augustine, Powell and Jack Ingram combined for 22 of the team's 38 rebounds. Louisville only managed to collect 26 boards, while shooting a sub-par 39% from the floor.

The Cardinals and Pitino had a memorable run, but the assessment by Pitino was particularly prescient. "They were the better team," he said.

In the later game, Michigan State stayed with North Carolina as long as they could, and actually led at halftime by five points, 38-33. That lead would be short-lived, however, as the Tar Heels tied the game at 49 and then went on an 18-3 run which put North Carolina up 67-52 midway through the 2nd half. After that, the Spartans could get no closer than 11, as the Tar Heels rode workhorse Sean May and smooth guards Ray Felton and Rashad McCants to the easy 87-71 win and a shot to win it all against Illinois on Monday night.

May finished with a team-high 22 points and added 7 rebounds. Jawad Williams, who kept Carolina close in the first half with fearless shooting, had 20. McCants tallied 17 and Felton finished with 16 points and 7 assists. While neither team was sharp from outside (Carolina was 6-20, Michigan St. 7-23 from 3-point range), once Carolina took control of the game, it was clear which was the superior team.

Michigan State could not muster a comeback, and play in the final five minutes was fractured and unspirited. The breakneck pace of the first 35 minutes had taken a toll on both teams, but mostly the Spartans. They chose to run up and down with the Tar Heels, hoping to use their team depth to an advantage, but the Carolinians were equally deep and better conditioned.

Coach Roy Williams was deft at shuffling players in and out, but credit for the win surely goes to the players, who visibly stepped up their intensity on both ends of the court, especially on defense, in the 2nd half. The Tar Heels topped the 85-point mark for the 4th time in 5 tournament games. The only time they have not scored more than 85 was their 67-66 scare in the regional finals against Villanova.

Illinois meets North Carolina for the National Championship on Monday, April 4, at roughly 9:21 pm EDT.

Game preview will be posted here Sunday night, around 8:00 pm EDT.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Final Four Breakdown: Part 2

(26-6) Michigan State vs. (31-4) North Carolina, tip off Saturday, April 2, 8:37 pm ET

Michigan State has had a nice run, but North Carolina simply can put better players on the floor more consistently throughout the game and that's why the Tar Heels will move on to play for the National Championship.

Tom Izzo predicted his team would have a nice tournament run, and it turns out that he was prophetic. The Spartans will have to rely on taking every advantage and playing near perfect basketball in order to beat North Carolina, and it's a very tall order. To do so, they will have to stop Raymond Felton's penetration, Rashad McCants, who can score from anywhere, and the interior game of All-American Sean May.

The Spartans will likely switch between zone and man-to-man, but it seems they are more comfortable playing man, and may have to because Carolina is very adept at recognizing and exploiting zone defenses. With exceptional ball movement and the duo of McCants and Felton controlling the backcourt, if Carolina hits shots early on and plays a little defense, it could be an early lights out for Michigan State.

The multiple guard deployment of Izzo's squad is highly dependent on getting quality minutes out of Chris Hill, Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown. Kelvin Torbert will also be required to add big minutes off the bench. Don't look for much from freshman Drew Neitzel at the point. He's simply too young and inexperienced to get much playing time in a game of this caliber. Inside, Paul Davis, who has been very steady and Alan Anderson will have the battle of their lives, and likely will be outrebounded by the Carolinians.

Though the Spartans are well-coached, disciplined and working their player rotation to near-perfection, it still won't be good enough to stop the Tar Heels from getting to the finals. Coach Roy Williams will take the next step toward his dream of winning it all. He certainly has the players with which to do it and this will be one of the better games of the tournament. Michigan will not go easily, and they just might play the perfect game, but I see this one going North Carolina 84 Michigan State 81.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Final Four Breakdown: Part 1

Illinois (36-1) vs. Louisville (33-4), tip-off Saturday, April 2, 6:07 pm ET

Much has been made of Illinois' record this season, with the Illini cruising through the regular season undefeated until their final game in the Big Ten, as they were upset by Ohio State, 65-64. If Illinois wins their next two games and is crowned National Champions, that one-point loss will stand to show just how close they were to perfection. Of course, winning the next two will prove to be difficult.

The Louisville Cardinals bring not only a rich history of basketball superlatives, but a history-making coach (Rick Pitino is the only coach in NCAA history to bring three different teams into the Final Four) and a remarkably balanced and efficient starting five.

The Cardinals will have a bit of a height advantage over Illinois' three guard offense, though they will likely play a zone defense to start the game. If they are forced into man-to-man, the question is whether they can stay with speedy Dee Brown and Luther Head. In that scenario, it's likely that senior Larry O'Bannon would be assigned to Brown, with Taquan Dean handling Head and 6'7" Francisco Garcia covering point guard Deron Williams.

That kind of alignment would limit Williams' penetration and passing, as the angular Garcia could conceivably cut down his passing options. O'Bannon cannot be expected to cover the speedy Brown everywhere (nobody can), but hope to limit his touches as O'Bannon also will have reach advantage (He's 6'4", while Brown is 6'0"). Head and Dean, both at 6'3", looks like a standoff when Illinois has the ball.

When Louisville has the ball, all of this changes, putting pressure on the Illini to cover the dangerous perimeter play of the Cardinals. What the Illinois' guards lack in size, they more than make up with speed, so Head and Brown may find themselves up close and personal with the ball-handlers, looking for steals, and they're sure to get a few, though Louisville is usually very good at protecting the rock.

The key guys will be Dee Brown and Francisco Garcia, because all of the Louisville players will be able to shoot over Brown, but especially Garcia. Head will likely cover Dean, though he's a very tough matchup, with Brown on O'Bannon and Williams on Garcia, who might be inclined to take his man inside, exploiting the height advantage, and trying to get Williams in foul trouble.

The matchups on the outside seem to offer Louisville a slight edge.

The interior play offers more intrigue, focused on Illinois' James Augustine and Louisville's superstar freshman Juan Diego Palacios. While the Cardinals' Ellis Myles battles with Jack Ingram or Roger Powell Jr. for inside position and rebounding, the other forwards are going to be focused on offense. Both Augustine and Palacios are tough inside and have credible mid-range shooting touches, though Palacios can and will take three-pointers, where he hits at a 38% clip. Augustine's inside shots must be contested, as he is deadly inside, hitting at a 63% clip from the floor.

When the ball goes up, the strategy changes. Illinois is going to need extra help on the boards. Augustine and/or Ingram/Powell will not be able to fend off the tenacious Myles, who averages nearly 10 boards per game. Also expected to grab some board time is Garcia, and with him crashing in, Illinois has three rock-solid rebounders, a force Illinois cannot match.

Added to the mix are the subs, which both sides will use sparingly. Illinois' 7'2" Nick Smith will get some minutes, though despite his height is somewhat slight and may not be effective battling inside. On the perimeter, Rich McBride will get some PT, but not much, unless one of the guards gets into foul trouble.

Louisville will rotate seven players, adding forward Otis George to the mix for even more muscle inside, and Brandon Jenkins, who can and will likely provide needed minutes at point guard. Freshman Lorenzo Wade might also see some playing time, but in a very limited fashion, unless, of course, somebody is in foul trouble.

Speaking of foul trouble, it could spell disaster for either team, but once again, Louisville seems to have better bench balance than Illinois. Head coach Rick Pitino will have his thinking cap on and be looking to exploit every advantage he can find. He knows the extent to the talent he has on the floor - a ton - and will let his guys play. For both of these teams, most of the coaching has already been done; now it's up to the players.

In the final analysis, even though Illinois is a 3-point favorite and were seeded #1, they probably shouldn't even be here. Arizona had these guys beat, up 15 points with 4 minutes to play in the Chicago Regional final. The Wildcats simply stopped playing and let the game slip away, losing all momentum and succumbing in overtime.

While Louisville also battled back from an improbably deficit, one has to realize that West Virginia shot an unheard of 75% from 3-point range in the Albuquerque Regional final against the Cardinals. Barring the miraculous performance of the Mountaineers' outside shooters, Louisville would have won that game handily, and they did just that in overtime, winning by 8.

Illinois was the #1 seed of the tournament, but besides Arizona, played nobodies Fairliegh-Dickinson (a 16 seed), Nevada (9) and Milwaukee-Wisconsin (12), and won each game with relative ease. Louisville was snubbed by the selection committee and placed 4th in their region, but they beat 13-seed Louisiana-Lafayette (actually that opening game was their closest, at 68-62), Georgia Tech (5), Washington (the #1 seed in the region) and West Virginia (7). The Cardinals have more than proved their mettle.

When it's all said and done, the Cardinals will be the survivor, though I don't expect the Illini to go down easily. I also don't expect Louisville to stop playing with four minutes left in the game. When the clock hits all zeros, the scoreboard will read: Louisville 88 Illinois 76.

Tomorrow, analysis of Michigan State vs. North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

In Praise of College Hoops

After four straight days of incredible hoops action - especially the Saturday and Sunday Regional Finals - I have to admit I needed a little break. I skipped Monday and my day off spilled over into Tuesday, but I'm stoked to get back to work analyzing the Final Four matchups.

Prior to that, which I will do on Thursday and Friday, I'd like to make a few deserved statements about NCAA basketball and college athletics in general. I think the players, coaches and the college staffs deserve a great deal more credit than they get from the mainstream for the superb job they all do promoting what has truly become an American tradition with worldwide appeal.

With all the scandal, illegal drug use and personality problems persistent in other, mostly professional, sports, college basketball remains a vestige of what athletics is really all about. It's no wonder that the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is one of the most widely followed sporting events year after year. The kids on the court - many of whom will never receive multi-year offers from NBA teams - play with great pride and passion and do so in a spirit that embodies not only the principles of good sportsmanship, but of good citizenship and good humanity as well.

One only rarely sees players arguing calls, getting in the face of an opponent or displays of overt taunting or chest-thumping in the tournament. The games are usually hard-fought and demanding on players and coaches alike. Invariably, at post-game press conferences, you will hear numerous references to the courage and play of the opponent. Praise for a worthy, though vanquished opponent, is both an appropriate and welcome gesture and those expressions are genuine.

The desire to win is real and palpable, but so is the appreciation of how hard the other side tried. One would have to be blind, especially after watching this weekend's multiple overtime extravaganza, not to see the extreme effort on display by all participants. There is no slacking on defense, little on-court, mid-game celebration after made baskets, and thankfully, very few of the players have been seen beating their chest and then pointing to the sky, as has become the normative gesture to give glory to some Supreme Being by such delusional sycophants as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, to name just a few athletes who are neither role models nor honest ambassadors of sport.

While a solid religious or spiritual background may be vitally important to the psychological readiness of many players, I'm pretty sure God is not rooting for either side in any sporting event. Religion and sports, just like religion and politics, is not a good mix. Any God or supreme entity worthy of ultimate glory and praise, bestows talents and blessings on all participants, not just the guy on the team who made the winning shot. If anything, praise should be heaped upon the coaches, who diagram the plays which free up shooters to make critical shots.

It's not that I'm anti-religion, atheistic or even agnostic. I am actually none of those. I simply believe that one's religious or spiritual leanings are more of a private matter than something to be displayed in public. Every time I see a player in any sport making a demonstrable public gesture of religious belief I want to respond by saying, "hey, you were wide open", "my granny could have hit that pitch" or "how about the six guys who were blocking for you?"

Putting oneself on the level of "anointed or appointed by God" is completely out of place, especially in team sports. Considering the diversity of players in today's athletics, there may be as many as 5 or 6 different religious persuasions represented on the field, court or pitch. Saying that "your" God made the difference is to ignore that diversity and may even be offensive to teammates.

Save the hyperbole and testifying for Sunday in church, or go to BYU and spend a few years on a ministry, as all student athletes there are required to do. You'll never see a Mormon make a gesture to the heavens in a game. Those kids have too much class and faith and understanding for anything so crass or wholly superficial.

Sport is not about religion or politics. It's about the game, about winning gracefully and losing with honor. It's about teamwork and practice and desire and heart and playing hard to do your best. That's what players, coaches and fans really want and deserve and thankfully, what college basketball delivers.


NCAA Basketball Home Page
Tournament Information

NCAA Tourney Brackets
Men's Basketball Statistics
2005 Final Four site