Posted: Monday April 4, 2005 1:31PM; Updated: Monday April 4, 2005 1:31PM
Illinois' Roger Powell Jr. Sr., 6-6, 235 Stats: 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds
Powell is the Illini's most unheralded player and is capable of exploding in stretches like the second half against Louisville. Illinois will need the same effort against North Carolina. Powell needs to be aggressive on the boards, make himself available inside and help out on Sean May. He also must extend his defense against Jawad Williams, who can step out and hit the 3.
Finally healthy, Williams is North Carolina's X-factor and causes matchup problems. He's a good shooter, and at 6-7, has the handle and driving ability of a guard. He also runs the floor well. Williams is coming off a 20-point, eight-rebound effort against Michigan State and burned Illinois for 18 and 12 last year. If he puts up those kind of numbers Monday night, the Tar Heels are going to be tough to beat.
Illinois' James Augustine Jr., 6-10, 230 Stats: 10.3 points, 7.7 rebounds per game
Augustine has been effective by playing within himself. He doesn't do anything spectacular, but he's a fundamentally sound player who rebounds well and can score in the paint when called upon. But he hasn't faced a big man the caliber of May. Augustine must hold his ground, box out and not get pushed around, something few centers have been able to accomplish against May.
Sean May Jr., 6-9, 260 Stats: 17.3 points, 10.8 rebounds
May is so difficult to stop because he's wide, runs the floor well, rebounds like a lion at feeding time and creates good angles for himself. If he's patient and avoids foul trouble, Illinois won't have an answer for him. May has been at his best in the NCAA tournament and has been locked into leading the Tar Heels to the title. He has to expect the double team and must maintain his intensity and control.
EDGE: NORTH CAROLINA
Illinois In order to win this game, the Illini need to get decent production from their bench. Against Louisville, Jack Ingram and Nick Smith stepped up and combined for 13 points and five rebounds. They'll need a similar effort against North Carolina. If they can give Illinois extra minutes, hit open jumpers and rebound, the Illini will be in good shape. Guard Rick McBride will spell Brown and Williams and can hit the open jumper. McBride won't be counted on to score, but he'll need to handle the ball and avoid turnovers.
Nort Carolina The Tar Heels have a huge advantage here because they have a stable of athletes who can all score, rebound and get up and down the floor. Coach Roy Williams considers Marvin Williams a sixth starter and the sensational freshman will cause Illinois problems inside and out. A good passer, rebounder and shooter, Williams is a nightmare matchup and can have an impact on a game without scoring. Melvin Scott and David Noel are excellent athletes who aren't afraid to take a big shot and coach Williams can also steal some minutes with Reyshawn Terry and Quentin Thomas.
EDGE: NORTH CAROLINA
Though this is Bruce Weber's first Final Four, he's a seasoned veteran who does an excellent job of managing the game. He's won the trust of his players and has them playing efficient and unselfish basketball. Weber doesn't panic and lets his players lead. But he'll have to make more in-game adjustments and figure out a way to fix Illinois' problems with inbounding the ball in pressure situations.
Roy Williams has been to the title game before -- most recently with Kansas in 2003 -- but he hasn't won a national championship. Some say he gets too tight in big games, but Williams has been loose in the NCAA tournament this year and hasn't panicked even when the Tar Heels have played poor. He's done an excellent job of getting his team to step it up when they need to and knows Carolina can't afford to play just one good half against Illinois. Williams has his team's respect and ear, and in a close game he has the knowledge and experience to put North Carolina in a position to win.