Many have called this a Final Four that could go down as one of the best in history. I don't disagree at all, and I'm unbelievably excited to catch the games tonight. Here's my quick and dirty preview of tonights two Final Four games. I'll have analysis of the games upon their completion as well.
Game One: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Georgetown
Perhaps nothing says more about how fortunate Ohio State is to be here that Vegas has installed the No. 1 seed Buckeyes as a one-point underdog to the No. 2 seed Hoyas. Many have tried to make this into a battle of Greg Oden vs. Roy Hibbert, but their impact on the game will not be felt in some kind of one-on-one matchup. Here are my three keys to the game
- Which big man can stay on the floor and control the defensive end? This is how Oden and Hibbert will determine the outcome of this contest. Both have been dominant on the defensive end at times, and at times, both have been ineffective because of foul trouble. Which guy can stay on the floor? Will Georgetown be stifled on all those backdoor cuts, knowing that Oden is waiting? Or will the Hoyas bait him into foul trouble, which can happen if he's just a split second too late rotating? Will Hibbert have trouble guarding Oden? The team whose center spends more time on the floor likely wins the game.
- Ohio State's perimeter defense against that Princeton offense of Georgetown. Ohio State has been prone to lapses in perimeter defense in this tournament -- how do you think Tennessee got that big lead? Any team that wishes to slow down Georgetown must demonstrate the appropriate amount of patience on every defensive possession, something UNC tired of. Can OSU's young guards keep the intensity for 35 seconds and avoid those deadly back-cuts?
- Thad Matta vs. John Thompson III. Neither of these coaches has been to a Final Four, although JTIII spent plenty of years watching his dad do it. The bright lights can cause even the best coaches to wilt -- which coach will make the critical move that either saves his team or costs it?
Game Two: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 UCLA
The much anticipated rematch of last year's championship game finally gets its chance in the nightcap. While most have portrayed it as basically the same two teams as last year, UCLA actually only returned about 50 percent of its points from last year's game with the departures of Jordan Farmar, Ryan Hollins and Cedric Bozeman. However, this might be a better UCLA team than last year, while many wonder if Florida might have taken a step back. Here are my three keys to the game:
- Can Florida handle UCLA's defense? Florida has not seen a team in this tournament that plays defense as hard as UCLA. In fact, this team plays harder defense than the team that looked so bad in losing to the Gators last year. The Gators have proven themselves vulnerable to stretches of sloppy play this tournament, something that absolutely will get a team into trouble against the Bruins.
- How will UCLA's frontcourt handle Horford and Noah? As the interior guys go, so goes Florida. Can Lorenzo Mata and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute be servicable enough inside, keeping Horford and Noah from getting the offensive rebounds that so energize their team? If Horford and Noah go off, that's bad, bad news for the Bruins.
- Can UCLA score enough points to win? Last year, the Bruins' offensive performance was atrocious. Particularly awful was Arron Afflalo, then just a sophomore. Well, Afflalo is now the Pac-10 player of the year and is coming off the best game of his career, given the stage. As the Bruins' primary scoring option, he must come up big against the Gators for UCLA to have a shot.
So, there you have it. I'll possibly be checking in during the games, but at least after them. Until then, happy watching! I know I'll be glued to the TV.