Posted: Thursday March 31, 2005 5:08PM; Updated: Thursday March 31, 2005 5:08PM
Louisville's biggest advantage -- head coach Rick Pitino -- will be sitting on its bench.
Illinois (36-1) vs. Louisville (33-4) Saturday, 6:07 p.m. EST, CBS Edward Jones Dome (46,469)
After dramatic comebacks from the Illini and Cardinals in their respective regional finals, the teams square off in what should be an entertaining semifinal. Both can light it up from the outside and love to run. Louisville is red-hot, having won 13 straight and 22-of-23. The Illini have been the best team all season. Here's how they matchup:
Williams runs the Illini with a calm, cool efficiency unmatched in the college game. He knows when to shoot, pass, run and slow it down. Mistakes are rare. Williams keyed Illinois' comeback against Arizona with three key 3-pointers and has shown a knack for hitting big shots. Though he's not blessed with speed, he's an excellent defender and held Arizona sharpshooter Salim Stoudamire to nine points on 2-of-13 shooting in the Chicago Regional Final.
An outstanding outside shooter, Dean is as proficient from beyond the arc (45.5 percent) as he is inside. When he's hot, Louisville is tough to beat. When he's not, Dean can force things and take the Cardinals out of their offense. A good penetrator, Dean must keep the offense moving by getting in the lane and dishing. That will open the game up and create more opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Illinois' Dee Brown Jr., 6-0, 185 Stats: 13.5 points, 4.5 assists
Brown is a second point guard and the Illini's sparkplug. Whenever they need a basket, steal or a lift, Brown comes through. He's lightning quick, and when he gets the ball in the open court, you can put two points on the board. Louisville must not allow Brown to breakout in transition because he's deadly when he does. If Brown is hitting from the outside, Louisville is in for a long night.
O'Bannon has come up huge for the Cardinals, particularly in the NCAA tournament. He scored a team-high 24 points in Louisville's come-from-behind win over West Virginia in the Regional Final and was named the Albuquerque Region's Most Outstanding Player. O'Bannon has good range and is a slasher to the basket. He must continue to be aggressive and take pressure off Dean and Francisco Garcia.