Illinois' Fighting Illini men's basketball team fought hard to come back from a thirteen-point halftime deficit, but in the end the North Carolina Tarheels won the national collegiate championship game tonight.
My brackets are an absolute mess as I failed to pick the right winners game after game not just at the outset, but even as March Madness progressed. But I retain some shred of dignity in that I did predict that North Carolina would win the national championship.
As an Ohio State and Big Ten fan, I was happy that Illinois was joined by Michigan State in the Final Four. That finish by two teams from a Big Ten Conference whose RPI was down the line this year was especially gratifying. While it would have administered complete decimation to my tournament picks, I was pulling for an all-Big Ten final. But that wasn't to be.
Throughout this tournament, Illinois surprised me because, while I knew that they were a good team, I hadn't realized how good. Their three-guard, furious motion offense has been one of the great stories of college basketball this year.
As readers of this blog can testify, my predictive abilities are always suspect. But I did rightly predict that the Tar Heels would win the national championship and, friends and family will tell you, I also correctly predicted an earlier Illinois loss this year. Three weeks before the last regular season game of the Big Ten schedule, I said that my beloved Buckeyes would beat the Illini. That happened on a buzzer shot in Columbus, in what was Illinois' only other loss of the season.
Congratulations to a really good North Carolina team!
Congratulations to Illinois for a tremendous season!
And one more prediction: Next year, The Ohio State University Buckeyes, under second-year coach Thad Matta, will be Big Ten champions. (That trophy will look really good next to the national championship hardware I expect the football team to collect this coming season.. But that's another blog entry for another day.)