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News Nuggets, 04.04.05
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Compiled from staff reports and electronic dispatches

Title game preview: Roy Williams' time has arrived


04.03.05: Little men come up big as Heels, Illini head to showdown ... Cops unleash tear gas on disruptive Michigan State fans ...  More...
04.02.05: UNC-G coach beats out Herrion for Siena job ... Terps assistant Dickerson named coach at Tulane ... 'P.H.D.' Pitino gets life in perspective at U of L ...  More...
04.01.05: Gamecocks capture NIT title in thrilling finish ... Coaches pushing for more distant 3-point arc ...  More...
03.31.05: Preparations in place for closed ECU scrimmage ... Texas legislature maneuvers to reign in BCS ... NIT master Odom leads USC into title game ...  More...
03.30.05: Night-time football on the menu for Pirate fans ... Gamecocks top Terps to reach NIT title game ... Hawks halt Memphis in NIT semifinal battle ... More...
03.29.05: East Carolina southpaw takes Conference USA honor ... Beale Street helps Memphis star cure the blues ... More...
03.28.05: McCants helps Heels seal the deal over Badgers ... Scintillating finishes supercharge TV ratings ... More...
03.27.05: Cards, Illini mount monumental rallies to reach Final Four ... Terrapins dump TCU to win Garden date with South Carolina ... Sunday preview: North Carolina vs. Wisconsin ... More...
03.26.05: Duke, State bite the dust; Heels survive ... Louisville, WVU rumble for spot in Final Four ... Fires plague Morgantown after tourney win ... Players nabbed for passing fake currency ... More...
03.25.05: Holland named to powerful USA Basketball panel ... ECU fans to have rooting interest in NIT semis ... Triangle's Sweet 16 teams converge at RDU ... Another DUI charge embarrasses Cincinnati ... More...

AP Basketball Writer

ST. LOUIS — Keys to Monday night's NCAA national championship game:

Time: 9:21 p.m.
Television: CBS
Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 123
Place: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis

BACKCOURTS: The three-guard system has been Illinois' strength all season and it will be tested by the Tar Heels. The point guard matchup of Deron Williams of Illinois and Raymond Felton of North Carolina should be a classic. Both run the offense — and run is the key word — and Williams has become a stalwart on defense, limiting the opponents' top scorer the last two games.

FRONTCOURTS: North Carolina's Sean May has been a certain double-double the latter half of the season and Jawad Williams showed Saturday night that he is over a nagging hip injury that bothered him since the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Illinois' frontcourt has been the question mark in a near-perfect season. Roger Powell Jr. had a big second half on Saturday after sitting with foul trouble in the first half, and May will be his responsibility on defense.

THE BENCHES: Both teams play eight-man rotations but North Carolina's is more versatile and 6-foot-9 freshman Marvin Williams makes for a matchup nightmare, forcing Illinois to either go to a bigger lineup if he heads inside or try to stay with him with a smaller player in the open court.

THE COACHES: North Carolina's Roy Williams is in his third national championship game, having lost in 1991 and 2003 with Kansas. He is 5-0 in tournament games played in St. Louis, having won regionals here with Kansas in 1993 and 2002. Bruce Weber has the Illini in their first title game in his second season.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS: Illinois and North Carolina met in each of the last two seasons, so these upperclassmen have faced each other. May had 23 points and 14 rebounds, Jawad Williams had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and the Tar Heels held Dee Brown to 3-of-17 shooting last season in North Carolina's 88-81 victory. In 2002-03, Illinois won 92-65 and the stars were Brian Cook (22 points and eight rebounds) and Sean Harrington (20 points, all but two on 3-pointers), neither of whom is around anymore.

THE SKINNY: Coaches always say big games come down to matchups and these just don't favor Illinois. North Carolina has a decided advantage inside while still being able to create mismatches everywhere but at the point. The Tar Heels will finally give Roy Williams his first national championship, 88-78.

Cards return to elite status after 4-year climb

ST. LOUIS — Moments after Louisville lost to Illinois in the Final Four, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino assured his players they had no reason to feel dejected.

``Being disappointed is when you get knocked out in the first round,'' Pitino said. ``When you go to a Final Four, if there's any disappointment, then you can't appreciate the game as you should.''

Once the sting of Saturday's 72-57 loss wears off, the Cardinals can reflect on a season that completed a four-year climb back to national prominence under Pitino.

The Cardinals finished 33-5, matching the school record for victories set by the 1980 NCAA champions. They were also the first Louisville team to reach the Final Four since the 1986 championship team.

``It feels great, man, just to be a part of it,'' said senior guard Larry O'Bannon. ``The program is definitely headed in the right direction.''

The Cardinals won 22 of their last 24 games and swept the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles in their last year in the league. They'll join the Big East next season and expectations largely hinge on the suddenly uncertain future of leading scorer Francisco Garcia.

Pitino started saying last October that the 6-foot-7 junior swingman would enter the NBA draft after this season. Garcia also said repeatedly that he was leaving and was honored in Louisville's final home game with O'Bannon and seniors Ellis Myles and Otis George.

Garcia, who also led the team in assists (148), steals (65) and blocks (56), carried the Cardinals in the NCAA tournament until a dismal 2-for-10 shooting performance against Illinois.

Pitino said after the game that he and Garcia have discussed his possible return.

``I said, 'Look, Francisco, you're going to be a first-round draft choice. Here is what you have to figure out in this whole equation: In other years, you'd be a lottery pick,''' Pitino said. ``If he's a 26 pick in the draft, I would recommend coming back. If he's the 18th pick in the draft, I'd recommend going.''

The Cardinals might miss Myles more than they would miss Garcia.

The 6-foot-7, 245-pound post man was the team's leading rebounder and undisputed leader, a remarkable transformation from the immature, out-of-shape kid Pitino was ready to kick off the team four years ago.

Myles blossomed into a sharp passer this season and led Louisville in assists during the NCAA tournament. He was Louisville's best player in the loss to Illinois, scoring 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

But Pitino said Myles' attitude made a bigger impact than his play.

``There are certain games where I've said, 'Guys, you continue to play that type of defense and continue to rebound the ball like that, you're going to lose this one,''' Pitino said. ``He would immediately say, 'We're not losing anything.' And he'd get after them.''

With Myles and talented 6-foot-8 freshman Juan Palacios anchoring Louisville's inside game, O'Bannon and junior Taquan Dean joined Garcia as consistent perimeter threats. Dean sank a school record 122 3-pointers this season and O'Bannon shot almost 50 percent from 3-point range in Louisville's last 10 games.

The Cardinals also got vital minutes off the bench from George, who coped with stress fractures in his right foot much of the season.

Pitino said he wanted to have Louisville on the path to elite status by the time his first recruiting class graduated. He's right on schedule.

``We've had an unbelievable season,'' Pitino said. ``I wanted, in the fourth season, to have a top 10 program. We're legitimately there. We're where we need to be.''

The departures of Myles, O'Bannon and George will hardly leave Louisville destitute next season.

Even if Garcia does not return, Dean and sophomore point guard Brandon Jenkins form an experienced backcourt. David Padgett, a 6-11 Kansas transfer, and 6-9 Brian Johnson will form a formidable frontcourt with Palacios.

Dean, the lone senior, is optimistic the Cardinals can make another deep run in the tournament next year.

``Now, I have to go in with new guys, but at the same time they'll have the same hunger and fire of the guys who are leaving,'' Dean said. ``It's time to move on.''

Pitino will also welcome seven new recruits rated as one of the nation's best classes.

News Nuggets are compiled periodically based on material supplied by staff members; data published by ECU, Conference USA and its member schools; and reports from Associated Press and other sources. Copyright 2005 and other publishers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Page Updated: 02/23/2007 12:22 PM


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