How often in sports do you get the matchup that everyone expects and wants. (Well not everyone, but the majority anyways). This is it. This game has it all. #1 vs #2. An Illinois team that never won it all vs a coach who hasn't won it all. Conference bragging rights. The ACC and Big 10 are 2-2 in this tourney and the winner will give their conference the best overall tournament record. With that said onto the keys of the games.
Key 1: Foul Trouble. Louisville got Powell into foul trouble in the first half and he was ineffective. They could not duplicate that feat in the 2nd half and Powell took over the game. Powell almost always gets in foul trouble and North Carolina has to make it happen again. Illinois usually does not get teams into foul trouble, McCants would be the only candidate, but I don't see it happening.
Key 2: Defense. Illinois plays it, incredibly well. McCants does not. The rest of North Carolina defends OK. North Carolina needs a defensive effort like the second half of Michigan St. and not like the Wisconsin game. If North Carolina does not play defense like that second half of the Michigan St. game, Illinois is going to score a ton of points and most likely win easily, yes easily. If Roy Williams looked at the game tape from the Arizona Illinois games he will see that Illinois isn't nearly as good defensively if you get upcourt quick on offensive and move the ball around the perimeter. It wasn't so much that Arizona pounded the inside as much as they had Illinois off balance and then were able to stroll right into the lane for easy shots. That is why Arizona had success inside and Louisville did not. If North Carolina stops to set the offense and then tries to go inside, Roy Williams really is learning impared and probably never will get that championship.
Key 3: Rebounds. North Carolina has such a huge advantage here. All the Illini can do is to hope to limit North Carolina to as many 1 shot trips as possible. I know the Illini outrebounded Louisville. That was Louisville. This is North Carolina.
Key 4: Turnovers. Illinois usually does not turn the ball over, North Carolina has a lot of turnovers. A fast pace will probably not help North Carolina since Illinois is used to playing a quicker pace so North Carolina can not make up for all the turnovers with easy buckets, because there will be few easy buckets tonight. Illinois is lucky that their guards are quick, they make a lot of lazy passes that can be picked off (re: Arizona), most defenders never try though since they are afraid of being burned for an easy layup.
Key 5: Fatigue Since this is the last game, this should not be a problem, but Illinois has looked tired in this tournament and Carolina has shown no signs of fatigue.
Key 6: Pace Illinois has shown they can play and win every type of game tempo. Can North Carolina succeed in a slow paced half court game?
Prediction: Illinois. Why? because Illinois will control the tempo and turnovers will kill North Carolina.