Illinois finished the 2004-2005 season with just a pair of losses, one of which came in the season’s final regular season game.
A five-point loss to North Carolina in the national title game. That team, which was led by Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head, was recently named the best team in college basketball history that never won a title, and while I think that UNLV’s 1991 team and the 1999 Duke squad that had their world shocked by UConn would disagree, it should give you an idea of just how that group is viewed in hindsight.
But it also makes me wonder: what would have happened if they hadn’t pulled off the comeback against Arizona in the Elite 8? Would they still be viewed in the same light? The NCAA tournament has this fickle way of morphing how an entire season’s worth of basketball looks in retrospect.
Do you know the comeback I’m talking about? Maybe not. Illinois was locked in a battle with No. 3 seed Arizona in the Elite 8 when the Wildcats used a 15-2 run over a five-minute second half stretch to open up a 15-point lead with 4:04 left in the game.
And the Illini came back and won. Watch:
You won’t see a better comeback — or a more exciting game — than that.