Saturday, March 31, 2007

March Madness: Final Four Preview

2007 Final Four
Georgia Dome, Atlanta
6:00 PM CBS & CBS HD

2Georgetown vs. 1 Ohio State

2UCLA vs. 1 Florida

I don't have a lot of time-or energy-to go into a detailed analysis of what i think will happen in tonight's national championship semi-finals (altogether now: "hooray!") because I played a 2-hour coaches vs. kids baseball game this morning and I've got a wedding to go to this evening.

That's correct, right at the exact time that Georgetown's Roy Hibbert and Ohio State's Greg Oden tipoff the first game, I will be sitting on the sand (appropriately) on Sand Key Beach watching the nuptials of friends Sam and Debbie. Sam is an Aussie and former rugby player, so obviously he didn't give a damn that his wedding was scheduled at such an unfortunate time.

Therefore I 'm going to give you my Cliff's Notes version of the keys to the Final Four, brought to you by those two special wedding day words: open bar.

Georgetown vs. Ohio State: Battle of the giants could come down to little guys
You can lay money that OSU's behemoth frosh center Greg Oden will be in foul trouble again (he's had 13 fouls against him in the last 3 games) in this one. That's because he will be facing an opponent who is even larger than he is: Georgetown's dominating big man Roy Hibbert.

As those two beat each other up for supremacy in the paint, look for the little guys to steal the show. Ohio State's fab frosh guard Mike Conley Jr. is the type of player you love to watch play, and every time you see him he seems to get better and better. Look for him and high-scoring forward Ron Lewis to do most of the damage while Oden sits out his foul trouble.

But Georgetown may have the better complimentary cast, especially when your next best player is the Big East Player of the Year, F Jeff Green. He alone could take over this game, but with help from sharpshooting guard Jessie Sapp and the sons of two former NBA players, Pat Ewing Jr. and Jeremiah Rivers (son of Doc) and you've got as complete a team that's come from the nation's capital in a long time.

MY PREDICTION: I know OSU is hot (21 straight wins) but I also know that Oden will get in foul trouble guarding Hibbert; Conley will have a huge game and the Bucks will look to Lewis to win it for them again. I just think the Hoyas are too tough, too deep, and will continue to ride the wave glory on the 25th anniversary of its heyday. Hoyas 77, Buckeyes 71

The Bruins will have vengeance in mind when it takes on the defending champs
Last year in the title game the Florida Gators tore the UCLA Bruins a new one, holding them to 57 points on 36% shooting including a miserable 3-17 from beyond the arc. Superstar guard Arron Afflalo was limited to 10 points on 3-10 shooting, the result of a stifling Florida defense, and the Gators chomped their way to their first national title with a 16-point beatdown.

Well you know what they say- payback's a bitch! There's nothing like international public humiliation to spark a team to do better, to dig deeper and reach the level of commitment necessary to erase that ugly memory from everyone's mind and replace it with a payback win.

The question in this one will be which team feels the pressure more- the one defending its title , or the one so desperate to take it from them? At times this postseason the Gators have looked very lackadaisical and/or lackluster in defeating teams like Butler, Purdue, and (for a half) Jackson State. There will be no such room for any kind of stagnant play like that with the Bruins, a team that loves to clog the lanes, get their hands on errant passes, and clamp down on defense.

Afflalo has been leading the Bruins' run to the title game again this season, averaging 18 points in 4 games including a monster 24-point performance in the defeat of 1 seed Kansas last weekend. Speaking of that victory the Bruins unleashed its suffocating defense on the unsuspecting Jayhawks to the tune of 55 points allowed and 41% shooting in the 68-55 win. It could be more of the same for the Gators, especially if it starts slow and Afflalo gets the Bruins off to a good start.

MY PREDICTION: The Bruins and Afflalo are more relaxed and probably hungrier for this game than the Gators, a team that is surrounded by the distractions that come with trying to be the first team to repeat since 1992 and having its head coach smack dab in the middle of a bidding war with hated SEC rival Kentucky. I like the combination of UCLA's defensive tenacity and Florida's sporadic passivity to lead the Bruins back to the title game for the first time since 1995. Bruins 64, Gators 57

No comments: