Things Wonk thinks the numbers are telling himWhittling the teams down to four has allowed Wonk to linger a little longer than customary on the stats for the players and teams we'll be seeing in St. Louis tomorrow. Here's a bit of what your intrepid blogger thinks....Everyone, Wonk included, says how vital Illinois' "big three" is to their team....We don't know the half of it.Pct. of team's minutes played1. Deron Williams, Illinois (83.0)2. Luther Head, Illinois (82.1)3. Dee Brown, Illinois (80.4)4. Francisco Garcia, Louisville (79.4)5. Raymond Felton, North Carolina (76.6)6. Ellis Myles, Louisville (73.3)7. Larry O'Bannon, Louisville (72.9)8. Juan Diego Palacios, Louisville (67.6)9. James Augustine, Illinois (66.9)10. Sean May, North Carolina (66.2)Note: not a single Michigan State Spartan in the top ten. Wow, empirical support for what our eyes (and alert readers) say: Tom Izzo really does run them in and out.And a Wonk salute to Deron Williams, who has logged more minutes than anyone else in St. Louis yet shows no ill effects. Quite the contrary, he's gaining strength. (Bad news for next year's Illinois fans and good news for NBA GM's.)It's not just the tempo--Carolina really does turn the ball over more than the other three teams.Turnovers per possession1. Illinois (.169)2. Michigan State (.202)3. Louisville (.209)4. North Carolina (.219)(Possession info swiped from Pomeroy, of course.) If Carolina held on to the ball as well as Illinois does, the Heels would be virtually unbeatable. In fact, see Sunday's game: despite very indifferent defense and poor three-point shooting on their part, they were still able to beat Wisconsin because they gave the Badgers only nine turnovers.And, um, because of this next item....Wonk may have been wrong about there being no Okafor or Anthony figure this yearRebound Pct.1. Sean May, North Carolina (22.5)2. Matt Trannon, Michigan State (18.3)3. Paul Davis, Michigan State (18.2)4. James Augustine, Illinois (17.4)5. Ellis Myles, Louisville (17.1)6. Marvin Williams, North Carolina (16.2)7. Drew Naymick, Michigan State (14.7)8. Otis George, Louisville (14.2)9. Warren Carter, Illinois (13.7)10. Roger Powell, Illinois (13.6)Meaning: during the minutes he's in the game, May gathers in 22.5 percent of the available rebounds. Which is dominant rebounding. Add that to his recent level of scoring (13-of-19 for 29 points against Wisconsin) and you have your Okafor/Anthony. Whether or not he truly rises to that level, May is clearly the single most dominant player in St. Louis.Tom Izzo is smarter than WonkTo be fair, Wonk knew that about Izzo before looking at the numbers. The man's been to four Final Fours in seven years. Wonk is still searching his memory but is pretty sure his own figure for that span is 0. Plainly, the Spartan coach knows what he's doing. So the following question is truthfully offered as a request for information--Izzo's gotta have his reasons, but Wonk still can't figure this one out....Why is Drew Neitzel starting?Each shot Neitzel launches demonstrably does his team more harm than any shot launched by any player in St. Louis not named Nick Smith (and Wonk doesn't think we'll be seeing too much of him). Neitzel has an OK assist-turnover ratio of 2.0 (better than Raymond Felton's 1.9; not as good as any of the Illinois big three) but of course the player he's replacing, Chris Hill, sports a 3.0 in that department. Neitzel has the lowest rebounding percentage (2.5) of the 35 Final Four players Wonk looked at. And the freshman point guard is frequently made the target of clear-outs in the half-court by larger more experienced opposing guards. Why is he starting? (Kudos to Ryan at Hawkeye Hoops for planting this seed.) UPDATE: while Wonk's been working on this post, the aforementioned Ryan has posted his own thoughts on what the numbers say we're going to see this weekend. As always, it's a very insightful read.The end draws near(er) Wonk is going to put the blog on hiatus for six months or so after posting next Friday, April 8. Watch for a week-long 2004-05 retrospective starting Monday! Five-themed features to include: --Wonk’s five dumbest posts of the year (I know, I know: only five? Send in those nominations today!) --Wonk’s five favorite contributions to Wonk Back! from the alert readers. --Five hoops blogs Wonk loves. Wonk will then shut the old girl down for the off-season like a Bar Harbor lobster pound. Only to descend visigoth-like upon your free time yet again come November. In today's less Wonk-ish venues.... Purdue coach Matt Painter has a potential 2006 Player of the Year on his roster in Carl Landry. So says no less an authority than Ryan at Hawkeye Hoops. Ryan notes Landry matches up quite well statistically, thank you, with a certain soon-to-go-pro lad named Ike Diogu.Iowa may add former Iowa first-team all-stater Brett Wessels to the roster as a walk-on.Stories split four ways--Final Four coverage....Bruce Weber and Tom Izzo brag about the Big Ten here. Multi-headed profile of the Final Four point guards (a category that, arguably, takes in about nine players) here. Andy Katz of espn.com praises the field's clutch performers and performances here.Ticket scalping is illegal in St. Louis. But, um, here's what you need to know about getting tickets if you're going."Celebrities expected to attend" the games this weekend include: Bill Murray, Cedric the Entertainer, Matthew McConaughey, Huey Lewis, Nelly, and Ryan Seacrest.(Huey Lewis?)(Michigan) State of euphoria!Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News says: Tar Heels, take heed! "Somewhere during an exhilarating run to the Final Four, MSU stopped believing its limitations and started defining its own talent." Pocket history of that exhilirating two-week tournament run here. Very very informative breakdown of Carolina vs. State here. Battle of the boards preview here. (Wonk thinks this is going to be a wash: both teams are outstanding on the glass. Nor, unlike some observers, does this blogger think State's depth will come into play tomorrow night--for reasons noted here.)Paul Davis says he and his teammates listen to Tom Izzo. "He's been there." More on Izzo from just about every State player here....Is the Spartans' run-the-floor style helping their recruiting? Hopeful speculation here.Vegas oddsmakers want to know! Is Roy Williams going to spit into the Mississippi River for good luck? "You never can tell," Williams says. "We may sneak out and do it again."Profiles in endurance. Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press profiles Shannon Brown here. Musing about Tom Izzo's legacy and, more importantly, his future here. Two-headed-opposing-monster profile of Drew Neitzel and Raymond Felton here. Alan Anderson and his post-Iowa marksmanship from the free throw line profiled here. Seven paragraphs on Matt Trannon here. Michigan State assistant coaches here....Pat Forde of espn.com profiles Sean May here. (More on May here.) They've come a long way from 8-20: pocket history of this generation of Tar Heels here.Illinipalooza!Bruce Weber is winning a lot of coach-of-the-year awards. There's even a scorecard if you're keeping track.What a couple of years it's been for Weber. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning recalls the phone conversation he had with Weber in 2003 when Bill Self left Illinois. Rutherford asked Weber if he'd be interested in the opening:"Well, yeah. But I don't know if I'll have a chance," Weber replied. Why wouldn't you have a chance? Rutherford asked. Weber answered: "Because I'm not a big enough name."...Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti gets Weber to say not winning it all this weekend would be "devastating" for the Illini players, fans, "and everyone involved." Wonk can't speak for the players, much less for "everyone," but this Illini fan couldn't disagree more. Of course a loss would cause searing heartbreak. But it would be far from the only thing provided by this year's team--see yesterday for Wonk's thoughts.A day in the Illinilife! Today's itinerary for the team, right down to a 3:15 lecture on sports gambling, is here....Wonk is surprised he hasn't seen this angle until now: a recounting of the 1989 Sweet 16 game between Illinois and Louisville. (Your intrepid blogger vaguely remembers only that Ervin Small had a good game.)Pocket history of the 2004-05 Fighting Illini here.Oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper is blogging about the ambience in St. Louis and the operative passage in his post is: "You have a chance to be standing in the middle of a throng that includes some hot chick from Louisville on your left and Gary Williams of Maryland on your right.""Whan that April with his showres soote, the Final Four hath perced to the roote"....Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune has found a junior-high literature teacher who's using the Illini as classroom material. (Where oh where was this woman when the indignant and sullen 14-year-old Wonk was being forced to read Beowulf?)...Did the crowd help Illinois stage its comeback against Arizona on Saturday? A sports psychologist says no (but says it politely).Call Robert Putnam! When the Illini bowl they don't do it alone, by gum!Profiles in saturation. This is the one profile to read today: Jeff Shelman (of the Minneapolis Star Tribune) profiles Deron Williams. Then if you're still up for more....Profile of Williams' mom, current Indianapolis resident Denise Smith, here. Luther Head here. Illini bench here. Bill Self sends best wishes here. Illinois players talk about watching the Final Four on TV as kids here....There are other "Dee Brown"s besides this particular Dee Brown, you know. One such tale here....In his dead-tree space this morning, Mark Tupper looks at the bios of the Louisville players. Pocket history of the 2004-05 Louisville Cardinals here. Profile of Rick Pitino here.... Wonk back! Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me! BONUS all-rip-on-CBS edition of Wonk back! The other day Wonk had occasion to ask if Kentucky's Patrick Sparks really yelled "Take that!" at Billy Packer after hitting the three that tied the Michigan State game in regulation. Wonk's readers respond!Wonk,I am a huge Kentucky fan, and happen to be from the hometown of Patrick Sparks. (I actually beat him in a game of horse, but that's beside the point). I would like to publicly thank Pat. After making the biggest shot of his career, he turned around and let Billy Packer know how we all really feel about him. In this article Packer says that Sparks was really saying "I hit that shot for you." Come on Billy. Do you really think so?Adam L.Thanks, Adam!It's pronounced "Torbert"Hey Wonk, I loved the post about Billy Packer a couple days ago. He is truly horrible. But I want to point out one of his partner's flaws that is also driving me nuts. Did you notice how Jim Nantz was pronouncing Kelvin Torbert's name throughout the last two games? He kept calling him Kelvin "Tor-bit." I want to know how a guy like Nantz gets to be such a big part of the Final Four when he can't even say a player's name correctly. He should go back to figure skating. While he is at it, he can take Packer with him. Go State! Jeremy B.Thanks, Jeremy! Good catch. No less an observer than Ken Pomeroy has noticed the same thing.You might also enjoy this mock interview of the "Columbian Broadcasting Service's" lead announcing team, Billy Packard and Jim Pantz.