Saturday, April 05, 2008

Final Four Preview and A Week in Review

Tonight, the culmination of over 60 NCAA tournament games ensues as the top four teams in the nation face off in what is a historical first. More importantly, expect absolutely no teams to be just smitten with making it to San Antonio and forget to show up. Of course, here is one item concerning each team:

  • If Memphis is going to play like they did last week in Houston, can they just begin cutting down the nets at halftime of their game and forget the hoopla? During the course of the week, I used the words "Joey Dorsey" and "intelligent player" in the same clause of a sentence. That's saying something.
  • Is the third time a charm for UCLA in the Final Four? The last two times, they had to face the mighty Gators, and this time, they have Kevin Love, who is a proven inside threat.
  • Will National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough succumb to the hype or expect whistles to be blown just because he is who he is? Cynical as that statement may be, an unfulfilled expectation of assistance has been a bitter pill to swallow deep in the tournament for many of the nation's finest.
  • Now that the monkey is officially off of his back, how will Bill Self motivate his Jayhawks to defeat Carolina?

For a second, let's take a small break from the Final Four to discuss the Week in Review.

  • First and foremost, the Lopez twins are leaving Stanford and they ain't comin' back. You probably didn't hear it here first, but wouldn't it be something if the Memphis Grizzlies selected Brook with the first pick and traded up (they have a stash of future 1st-round pick and young, cheap talent) to select Robin?
  • Staying in Palo Alto ... well, sorta. Okay, not so much. After 18 years at Stanford and a failed stint in the NBA, Mike Montgomery is off to Berkeley to coach the Golden Bears. For those just joining us or those of us on the East Coast who could care less about West Coast rivalries, this is huge. Montgomery and Trent Johnson will embrace at half court, but much more love for the former Stanford head coach cannot be guaranteed. It won't be smooth sailing for Montgomery, especially if Ryan Andersen signs with an agent.
  • Indiana filled its coaching vacancy by turning to Marquette head coach Tom Crean (AKA "The Stockbroker" - credit: Matt Carroll). Though I hate it when coaches do not properly inform their teams when leaving, I am happy for Crean who may have plateaued at Marquette after 9 years at the school, where he raised graduation rates and had an impact on the hardwood. Nevertheless, work starts immediately for Crean, who must act quickly to deal with two recently dismissed players and recruits who had commitments in place before Kelvin Sampson's forced resignation.
  • And in other news, Providence continues its head coaching search because Coach L is sticking with the Patriots. In all honesty, 60% of me thought he was a goner.

Ok, let's return to our regularly scheduled programming.

National Semifinal #1: UCLA vs. Memphis

KEY PLAYERS: Let's keep this short and sweet. UCLA absolutely needs to have production on the interior at both ends of the floor. That means Kevin Love must meet or surpass his season averages in scoring and rebounding, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute must disrupt the fluidity of Memphis's inside play. Expect Ben Howland to insert Lorenzo Mata-Real, Alfred Aboya and James Keefe for the sake of using 15 fouls to keep the Tigers honest ... at the charity stripe. As for Memphis, they will need to dictate the tempo. As Derrick Rose dominated DJ Augustin in the South Regional Final, he must do similar to another diminuitive guard, Darren Collison. Meanwhile, as Clement has pointed out regularly, CDR has to slash in order to draw fouls and create easy shots for Dorsey, Dozier and Taggart (almost sounds like "The Law Firm").

MOMENT OF TRUTH: TEMPO. At each of the ten-minute intervals, fans will be able to determine which team will dictate the pace of this game. If it's quick, Memphis has a decided advantage and the bodies minus Andre Allen, but even with that, do not count out UCLA. If it's slow, methodical and unappealing to the eye, Ben Howland probably will have a sheepish grin with good reason. Of course, there's also the 'F' word. Yes, free throws. There you go. No more on that.


  • Have less turnovers (shocker!)
  • Have higher backcourt scoring

PREDICTION: UCLA wins 65-61.

National Semifinal #2: UNC vs. Kansas

KEY PLAYERS: Let's get this one out there. Tyler Hansbrough is very good and will get his points this evening (how many shots will it take though?). He is the best player in this contest, though Kansas's Darrell Arthur may be a stronger professional prospect. The key matchup has to be the war between Mario Chalmers and Ty Lawson. Chalmers has an advantage because he is 100% healthy and will be able to play more minutes if he has to. Additionally, when Chalmers goes out, Sherron Collins will enter the game, and he may be the only player in the NCAA who can outrun both Lawson and Collison. The other matchup of interest will be Brandon Rush versus Wayne Ellington. Though Rush may focus his attention to Danny Green when the latter comes off the bench early in the first half, both Rush and Ellington are dynamic players who can create shots for themselves and can find open teammates. Lastly, the combos of Deon Thompson/Alex Stepheson and Darnell Jackson/Sasha Kaun serve as the X-Factor in this game. Whichever combination can be effective and stay out of early foul trouble may decide this one.

MOMENT OF TRUTH: Since both teams have the propensity to go on sustained runs and can score points in bunches, the player reactions (e.g. body language) and adjustments (e.g. change in defensive assignments) will decide this game. If Carolina goes up early, will Kansas resort to a four-guard lineup and sacrifice physicality and rebounding for speed, shooting and the ability to cause turnovers. Given the few times that Carolina has been down in games with Ty Lawson healthy enough to play, will Roy Williams be able to ensure that the heads of Hansbrough and Green stay in the game if a Kansas lead is sustained for a long period of time?


  • Give kudos to its coaching staff who won the 'X's and 'O's battle.
  • Have more offensive rebounds and second-chance points.

PREDICTION: UNC wins 83-76


Spartacus said...

Great site that I'll be adding to our blogroll! If the Grizzlies do draft the Lopez twins, I'll be burning down the FedEx Forum that same night.

Clement said...

Fantastic work by Pay, although the Carolina game was a bitter pill to swallow I'm sure.

My predictions are meaningless, but it would've had UCLA and UNC each winning by 4-7 as well.

Paymon said...

Thanks, Spartacus and Clement.

This UNC loss will taste badly for a while. The only Carolina loss that stung more (excluding the 8-20 season which was a continuous punch in the groin) was the 1998 Final Four loss to Utah.

For those who read the site, Clement deserves loads of credit for carrying the blog for the last couple months, which consequently has seen record numbers and comments.

His better is better than Reggie Bush's better.

Chris Iafolla said...

Just landed on your site after doing some posting of my own. You do nice work here, keep it up.

Last night's Final Four proved the time-tested theory of college basketball--solid guard play rules the roost. Time and Time again, we have learned that guard play is the key to a deep run in the tourney and this year has been no exception. By those standards, we may be looking at a Memphis championship on Monday night as they undoubtedly sport the best guard in the land.

In the end though, I think the Chalmers, Rush and Collins trio will prevail. Should be fun.