Raymond Felton, North Carolina 17 points (4-9 FG, 4-5 3P, 5-6 FT), 7 assists, 2 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 2 steals
In the battle of future lottery pick PG's, it appears that Felton was the one to come out on top tonight. Felton ran his team's offense to perfection, shoving the ball down the opponents' throats when he needed to, and pulling the ball back when it was time to run their half court sets. He started off the game a bit nervous it seems, and missed a couple of early shots, but for the rest of the game he was absolutely outstanding on both ends of the ball, looking like more and more of an NBA PG with every move he made. His showed off his fantastic court vision and passing ability, especially on the inbounds plays, incredible speed with the ball in his hands, good defense and hustle (although he struggled fighting through Illinois' moving screens), and hit some huge shots from close to NBA range with a hand in his face. He did not force too much after the initial jitters from playing in a national championship game wore off, and did well to refrain from getting his 5th foul towards the end of the game. He was a little bit too aggressive defensively at times, but that's not something you can really fault him with when a kid leaves everything he has out there on the court, especially when he's coming up with huge steals and rebounds at the end like he did. He finally put to rest the whispers about not being able to step up in crunch time, icing the game at the end with 2 clutch free throws as he over the course of the entire tournament. Felton retains his place on the mock draft as the #2 PG in the draft, with an eye on the #1 spot depending on how things play out with Chris Paul and what will undoubtedly come out regarding what happened in Wake Forest's locker room and behind the scenes this year.
Sean May, North Carolina 26 points (10-11 FG, 6-8 FT), 10 rebounds, 2 assists
The MVP of the tournament without a doubt. Sean May put an incredible show all month long with the way he played, finishing the tournament averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds per game on 66% shooting from the field. Tonight, on his 21st birthday, May was basically unstoppable against Illinois' anemic frontcourt, doing whatever he wanted inside the paint and giving North Carolina a basket or a trip to the line whenever they needed it. He showed some fantastic skills in the paint tonight; beautiful footwork and a gorgeous soft touch off the glass, putting the ball on the floor and spinning towards the hoop but never losing track of where the rim is, and just generally being automatic around the rim and looking like the best player on the floor tonight. Illinois tried the hack-a-May technique for a while, but May responded by knocking down most of his free throws and that tactic ended about as quickly as it started, mainly because the Illini just didn't have any fouls to spare after he almost fouled out their entire frontcourt with the rampage he went on. There's something to be said about the quality of competition May went up against in this game, though, as Illinois' frontcourt is hardly the twin towers of Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Things won't be as easy for May around the basket in the NBA, but his hands, mind and terrific skills have led us to believe this month that he has a future in the NBA whenever he decides to declare.
Deron Williams, Illinois 17 points (7-16 FG, 3-10 3P), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 turnover
Williams did his usual thing tonight, handing out great passes, controlling the tempo, playing the game calmly and within himself, and helping his team out big time in the scoring department when they really needed him in the 2nd half. His overall quickness looked average once again, as he had some trouble creating off the dribble, but this isn't anything new. He held his own defensively when he was guarding McCants, but struggled a bit towards the end with his 3 point shot. He didn't really do too much to hurt himself, as everything we saw from him has been on full display all season long. It would have been nice to see Illinois' offense a little less predictable, as Williams' inability to get into the lane, Dee Brown's refusal to put the ball on the floor and Luther Head's shaky ball-handling made them very stagnant and forced them into jacking up an incredible 40 three pointers in 40 minutes. But to be honest that's their offense and its worked for them all year long. Williams is still the 3rd best PG in the draft in my mind, but things are very much open to interpretation depending on who is looking for what and he could go as high as 1st or as low as 4th (behind Jarrett Jack) in terms of which PG's get drafted first.
Luther Head, Illinois 21 points (8-21 FG, 5-16 3P), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, 2 steals
Head was dribbling the ball about as much as I've personally seen from him all year long tonight, and the results were somewhat mixed. His ball-handling is in need of some serious refinement, and while his shot was streaky today, especially off the dribble, there's little doubt that he can knock them down in the NCAA. He had the green light tonight to shoot the ball whenever he saw daylight, so that's how he ended up jacking up 16 of them. The only question is whether things will be as easy for him in the pros where the average SG is about 6-6, because his point guard skills are basically non-existent at the moment. Head will not be playing at Portsmouth this week, which is understandable considering that he'd have to get on a plane tomorrow and fly to Virginia if he'd want to participate, and that's a lot to ask for a kid coming off such an emotional and physical rollercoaster as he's been on over the past month. Hopefully his play in the tournament will get him another look at Chicago, logic suggests it would, so Head's main concern until then should be to work on his handle and make sure he's mentally ready to handle the point at the pre-draft camp.
Marvin Williams, North Carolina 8 points (4-8 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 turnovers
Maybe we're cutting the freshman a little bit too much slack with the way he's played over the last few weeks, but he's still the same amazing prospect he's always been, even though his weaknesses are beginning to show more and more. Marvin is still a very raw player, he doesn't put the ball on the floor enough and shows limited ball-handling skills when he does, doesn't have any type of real post moves to go to inside, owns an inconsistent perimeter shot, and lacks the type of confidence you would expect out of a guy that could be the #1 pick in the draft. On the flipside, he's an incredible athlete and teammate, has a great motor, and there's nothing about him that makes you think that he won't improve on his very correctable weaknesses. His upside is tremendous and its not very hard to notice that. Staying in college wouldn't be such a bad thing for him if there wasn't so much money at stake here, but all of his talk about the draft revolved around North Carolina winning the national championship, so who knows what he is going to do now. He was a pretty good sparkplug off the bench tonight, and Roy Williams went with him over Jawad Williams for most of the big minutes in crunch time. He rewarded him with a nice putback with 1:36 to go off a McCants airball that gave his team a big lift.
Rashad McCants, North Carolina 14 points (6-15 FG, 2-5 3P), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers
Unlike any of his teammates, McCants could barely wait until the final whistle before stating his intent to enter the draft. Based on the way he's played over the past month, he might want to consider not hiring an agent and waiting to see who enters the draft in order to make sure that he has a decent shot at making the first round. McCants' weaknesses were once again highlighted for any impartial observer to see. He's still a 6-3 SG with average athletic ability compared with most NBA guards, and gets exposed every single time he puts the ball on the floor in the NCAA. He scored 14 points in the first half, by posting up his man and scoring around the basket, and hitting the open shots that were created for him by his teammates. He went scoreless in the 2nd half, though, and forced his way to the basket numerous times with very limited success thanks to his extremely shaky ball-handling skills. Defensively he was torched again and again by Luther Head, and Roy Williams decided to go with Melvin Scott over him for many key stretches, but he at least appeared to be putting slightly more effort in than he usually does. In terms of the NBA, he looks like a Joe Forte dime a dozen type player to me, that just so happens to play for a great team, but we'll find out pretty soon what the NBA really thinks of him.
James Augustine 0 points (0-3 FG), 2 rebounds, 5 fouls, 9 minutes
Not much to say about Augustine really, except that he just couldn't stay on the floor and got dominated by Sean May on both ends of the court. He's going to have to learn how to stay out of foul trouble better, and not to stick his hands in places they aren't supposed to be when he has 2,3, and 4 fouls early on in the halves. He picked up 5 fouls in 9 minutes, some of them of the ticky-tack variety, but all of which could have been avoided had he been a little smarter and used his feet instead of his hands.