Monday, March 20, 2006

Well, That's It!

So the tournament is over for me.

For the first time since 2000, the Cats and the Illini both flamed out in the first weekend of the tourney, leaving me with no rooting interest for the remaining two weeks.

Except for Duke to lose, of course.

The Cats opened on Friday with a gutty effort against their tourney nemesis UAB. All you need know about the game is that it was won at the line, with a 26-for-30 night from the stripe. Not exciting, but enough to win.

That set up the Sunday second-rounder against the region's top seed, UConn. The comeuppance for a season of diffidence was a date with the best team in the tourney in the first weekend. The bad news was, of course, as bad as it could get -- a season-ending loss.

The good news included a gutty effort all day; a continued ability to play some effective (if often tortuous) offense; some clutch play from The Fat Kid (who now becomes one of the most sought-after players in the history of men's open gym play at the Lexington Y) and from Bobby Perry (who might actually become a valuable part of next year's team after averaging 22.5 points & 7 rebounds in the two tourney games); and continued glimpses of Randolph Morris' value if they can just get him the damn ball!

In the end, the key play of the game was the same as the key play in last year's season-ender vs. Michigan State -- need a defensive rebound, don't get it. Honestly, if Sheray Thomas goes home to Montreal at some point in the summer there must be some way to get the border police on board to not let him back in the country. Guess there's a reason why the point guard was the team's leading rebounder.

Bottom line, an effort like this every night would have resulted in UConn being a regional final opponent, not a second-rounder, and that will be the legacy of this team.

On Saturday it was the Illini's turn to go down, in a second-round matchup with a tough bunch of Huskies. Washington won this game in much the same manner as UK beat UAB -- at the line (39 FTA for Washington, 11 for the Illini).

One game was actually three games.
  • In the first 15:15 it was 28-14 Washington.
  • In the middle 14:18 it was 39-14 Illini.
  • In the final 10:27 it was 25-11 Huskies.
For the difference in the three games, look at James Augustine's points.
  • First 15:15, 3 points.
  • Middle 14:18, 16 points.
  • Final 10:27, 0 points.
That 16 in the middle game included a couple of three-point plays, and basically consisted of living off of the pick-and-roll (3 assists for Rich McBride, 2 for Dee Brown).

The beginning and the end of the game saw none of that, and that proved the difference. Can't say why it happened, but the best pick-and-roll combo in Illini history is now truly history -- and the winningest combo in Illini history as well.


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