Wednesday, March 28, 2007

From 8 to 4

After last night the Final Four is set. The Florida Gators and UCLA Bruins will be a rematch of last year’s championship game. You can taste the blood already. On the other side of the bracket are the Georgetown Hoyas and the Ohio State Buckeyes. John Thompson III will continue his quest to nab a national championship in three years as head coach. The catch? He would one up his father, legendary Hoyas coach John Thompson, by doing it one year sooner. Don't push the young guys too hard Thompson.

Georgetown Hoyas vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

First off, great job by Georgetown mentally bullying Tyler Hansbrough and the young North Carolina team off the court. With two minutes left, no one on the Tar Heels wanted the ball. Now the task at hand. In exception to the Tennessee game, Greg Oden averaged 16.6 points and 13.3 rebounds. Solid. Even better, Though Oden was in early foul trouble, the Memphis Tigers’ two big men only contributed 9 points.

Georgetown is looking equally fit. Roy Hibbert completely sealed off the paint for Hansbrough and the Tar Heels. Hibbert recorded six blocks on the night. Add 11 rebounds and 13 points, and you have one of the best performances of the round.

Georgetown has become increasingly dangerous this postseason. Of all starters, Hibbert had a low of 13 points in the team’s last outing. The games top performances came from junior Jeff Green, 22 points, and freshman DaJuan Summers, 20 points. The Hoyas have had different players step up and score on different occasions. What does this mean? You have five completely able players that could step up at any point in time. That is dangerous, very dangerous.

Ohio’s senior guard Ron Lewis has been lighting the score boards up as of late. Lewis is averaging 24.6 points a game in his last 3 games. Freshman guard Mike Conley Jr. has averaged 19 points a game in his last 3 outings as well. Ohio is scoring, and scoring very well right now. Look for Conley, Lewis, and Oden to give the Hoyas plenty of problems.

The games most important match-up will be between Hibbert and Oden. Hibbert is coming off one of the round’s best performances. In the same light, Oden is coming off one of the year’s best performances. John Thompson III will have to keep a sharp eye on Hibbert. Hibbert had 4 personal fouls with 3:48 to go in the Hoyas last outing against the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels biggest man was the 6-9 Hansbrough. This time out, Hibbert will have to guard one of he NCAA’s most physical big men. Oden, at seven-feet-tall could definitely be giving Coach Thompson and company some trouble.

UCLA Bruins vs. Florida Gators

Only one word can be used to describe this year’s rematch of last year’s championship game; epic. The combination of Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo has been the offensive catalyst in UCLA’s dominant defensive play. Afflalo and Collison have combined for more than 30 points a game in the team’s last three games. Though the two players have been brilliant offensively, the Bruins team chemistry has been worth watching. The Bruins have only given up 50.25 points a game in their last four games.

The Florida Gators made a commitment after last years national championship to go for another one. It is insanely close happening. What really can be said about Florida’s Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer, that hasn’t been said before? They are big, they are versatile, and most importantly they win games. On average the big three are scoring very similar to last year at around 38 points a game, but have improved from 19.8 rebounds a game to 22.4 rebounds a game. 3 rebounds is not a lot in the big picture, but technically it makes the big three better this year.

Aside from the big three, Florida is coming off a very interesting game. Senior guard Lee Humphrey scored a whopping 23 points in Sunday’s game against the Oregon Ducks. This was Humphrey’s best play of the postseason. To boot, junior guard Taurean Green scored 21 in Sunday’s effort. In the last three games Green has scored 14, 17, and now 21. Green has become more of a threat, the further the Gators advance into the postseason. It will be very interesting to see how this trend works out in coming game versus UCLA.

The match-up between UCLA and Florida will be very complex. Green and Humphrey are coming off big scoring nights, but they were also guarded by the undersized guards of Oregon. The Afflalo and Collison combination will provide Florida’s guards will plenty to worry about offensively and defensively. Look to Florida to break down UCLA’s zone defense and go toward its guards on the wings. The back court match-up is definitely in favor of UCLA.

The front court is a totally different story. Look toward Noah, Brewer, and Horford to present the usual trouble the versatile trio presents on nightly basis. The biggest mismatch will be between UCLA’s Lorenzo Mata and Florida’s Horford. Mata is coming off a three point and two rebound game versus Kansas, and scored over 10 points once in the last seven games. On the other hand, Horford has had a great year for the Gators. He is nearly two points and two rebounds better statistically than last year’s championship effort. Horford also preformed poorly against Oregon scoring only 6 points, and grabbing 7 rebounds. Look to Horford to bounce back during the team’s next outing.

The Final Four will air March 31 from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. The Ohio State (1) vs. Georgetown game will start at 6:07 EDT and the UCLA (2) vs. Florida (1) will start at 8: 47 EDT.

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