Friday, March 31, 2006

Final 4 SEC Style

Down to the final weekend of college basketball – Tuesday will be a said day for the diehards.  The SEC, usually known for their football, is making a big splash in Indianapolis with two teams who are expected to meet each other in the Championship Game.  Let's take a look at how each team got here.

 

LSU – Atlanta Regional Champion

1st Round – Trailed Iona in the first half and was generally outplayed, but came out in the second half and put the Gaels away easily.

2nd Round – Without a three pointer by Darrel Mitchell with 3 secs to go, you would not even see the Tigers here.  

Sweet 16 – Upset of Duke led by outstanding defense inside and out.

Elite 8 – Back and forth game with Texas that went into overtime.  In the end, Tyrus Thomas and Glen Davis wore down Texas.

Player that got them here: Tyrus Thomas, F

Close Call: Texas A&M, 2nd round

What is to like about them: Play the best defense of any team left and have the most athleticism.  Very tough to score inside on with Davis eating space up and Thomas swatting shots away. 

What will be their downfall: Foul trouble inside.  If teams can get Davis and Thomas off the floor for extended time, they should be able to take advantage of LSU's lack of quality depth of the bench

 

UCLA – Oakland Regional Champion

1st Round – Easy win over Belmont

2nd Round – Let most of the way, but had to survive an Alabama come back at the very end

Sweet 16 – Miracle come back win over Gonzaga.  Bruins were down by 18 in the first half and left for dead, but slowly chipped into the lead and made the plays at the end of the game

Elite 8 – Led Memphis the whole way and won despite scoring only making 6 field goals in the second half

Player that got them here: Ryan Hollins, C

Close Call: Gonzaga, Sweet 16

What is to like about them: Probably most balanced team in the Final 4.  Can score and play defense inside and outside.   Plus, nobody is mentioned them – all the talk is about LSU's bigs, how well Florida is playing, and George Mason's Cinderella run.

What will be their downfall: A team who can muscle them off the boards.  Hollins is their only effective big man.

 

George Mason – Washington DC Regional Champion

1st Round – Upset of Tournament favorite Michigan State

2nd Round – Come from behind win over North Carolina

Sweet 16 – Led Wichita St the whole way en route to victory

Elite 8 – Monumental upset of perennial favorite UConn.  Down by 9 at halftime, but had taken lead at end of game with UConn needing a length of the court play to tie.   In overtime, George Mason jumped out ahead and held on

Player that got them here: Jai Lewis, F

Close Call: UConn, Elite 8

What is to like about them: They have been underdogs every game and they have not lost yet.  Also, they have great inside/outside play.

What will be their downfall: Foul trouble.  Mason does not have the depth of these other teams and cannot last with starters on the bench

 

Florida – Minneapolis Regional Champion

1st Round – Cruised past South Alabama

2nd Round – Took Wisc-Milwaukee's best shot, but moved on with relative ease

Sweet 16 – Took out Georgetown with the excellent play of Johkim Noah

Elite 8 – Led Villanova the whole way and won surprisingly easily considering 'Nova was a number one seed. Once again, Noah is the star.

Player that got them here: Johkim Noah, F

Close Call: Georgetown, Sweet 16

What is to like about them: They have the best player left in the Tournament in Johkim Noah.  Also, they pretty much went through their Region unchallenged.

What will be their downfall: A team that presses and gets in their face (Tennessee who swept them this year).

 

Who I think has the best chance of winning it all.....

Florida: 40%

LSU: 30%

UCLA: 25%

George Mason: 5%

 

Semifinals:

#3 Florida vs #11 George Mason 6:00 CBS

Once again, nobody is giving George Mason a chance in this game.  But I am sure they are fine with that because they are 4-0 in this Tournament as underdogs.   Florida has size inside, but so did UConn.  The difference here is that Florida's bigs can drive and shoot from the outside.   I think this game ends in one of two situations: Florida blows George Mason out (like Kansas did to Marquette in 2003) or it is a very close game.  Either way, Florida is playing the best out of anyone right now and I expect that to carry over to Indy.

Prediction: Florida

 

#2 UCLA vs #4 LSU 8:30 CBS

Nobody is giving UCLA much of a chance in this game despite them being the higher seed.  If LSU continues to play as they did in Atlanta, they will move on because UCLA just does not have the size to play with them.  For UCLA to win this game, they will need to get Thomas and Davis in foul trouble.   I think LSU's other downfall could be their lack of ball handlers, while UCLA has an experienced PG in Jordan Farmar.  Still, LSU looks like a team on a mission right now.   LSU will win in a slugfest.

Prediction: LSU

 

 

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