Tonight's title game

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

April 04, 2005|By Orlando Sentinel

Tonight's title game

Illinois (37-1) vs. North Carolina (32-4)

Time: 9:21.

Site: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis.

TV: Chs. 13, 9.

Line: North Carolina by 2 1/2 .

How they got here: Illinois won the Chicago Regional as the No. 1 seed. The Illini defeated No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, 67-55; No. 9 seed Nevada, 71-59; No. 12 seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 77-63, and No. 3 seed Arizona, 90-89 (OT). In a national semifinal, Illinois defeated Louisville, 72-57. North Carolina won the Syracuse Regional as the No. 1 seed. The Tar Heels defeated No. 16 seed Oakland, 96-68; No. 9 seed Iowa State, 92-65; No. 5 seed Villanova, 67-66, and No. 6 seed Wisconsin, 88-82. In a national semifinal, North Carolina defeated Michigan State, 87-71.

Tourney tidbit: This is the first time two No. 1 seeds have met in the final since 1999 in St. Petersburg, Fla., when Connecticut beat Duke, 77-74.

The buzz: There are two big questions. First is whether Illinois can control Tar Heels C Sean May in the low post. The second is whether North Carolina has the quickness to keep up with Illinois' guard trio of Dee Brown, Luther Head and Deron Williams. May has been dominant in the NCAAs, and he will have a big strength advantage over any Illini player who attempts to guard him. When May gets it going in the paint, the Heels are almost impossible to beat because they can stroke it from the outside with Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton and because there is complementary frontcourt help from starter Jawad Williams and reserve Marvin Williams. It may be a case of the Illini picking their poison: Do they concentrate on stopping May and let the perimeter trio bomb away, or do they concentrate on shutting down McCants and Felton and hope James Augustine, Roger Powell and reserve Jack Ingram can at least slow May? One thing to remember: Arizona C Channing Frye shredded the Illini's frontcourt defense in the regional final. But the Illini present some matchup problems of their own. The guard trio is marvelous. Each can shoot, pass, penetrate, play defense and even rebound. It's possible that North Carolina can slow one of the three. More than that, though, seems unlikely. It's vital that the Illini get something offensively from their frontcourt. Powell ate up Louisville's frontcourt in the semifinals, and Augustine had been a key in getting the Illini to the Final Four. Look for the Illini to pressure Felton as much as possible. When Felton struggles, the Tar Heels struggle. A big advantage for North Carolina is its bench. Marvin Williams, a freshman, may have the most pure talent of anyone in college ball. North Carolina needs big games from its defensive stoppers, Jackie Manuel and David Noel. Deron Williams put the clamps on Salim Stouadamire and Francisco Garcia in his past two games. Look for him to be matched up on McCants, who can go into a funk when his shots aren't falling.

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