Game 1: Florida Gators vs. George Mason Patriots
Tip-off Time: 6:07 PM EST
Game 2: LSU Tigers vs. UCLA Bruins
Approximate Tip-off Time: 8:47 PM EST
Radio: Westwood One
Suggestion: Turn off the audio on CBS TV and listen on Westwood One Radio if you are not enamored with the commentary of Billie Packer. Hopefully, your affiliate will not leave their seven-second delay on from their local talk shows.
Legend: ppg = points per game rpg = rebounds per game apg = assists per game bpg = blocks per game spg = steals per game min/g = minutes played per game
Head Coach: Billy Donovan 10th year at Florida, 13th year overall
(11) Taurean Green 6-0/177 So.—PG 13.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 37.4% FG, 39.4% 3pt, 88.7% FT, 33 min/g
(12) Lee Humphrey 6-2/192 Jr.—SG 10.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 47.3% FG, 45.6% 3pt, 58.3% FT, 30 min/g
(2) Corey Brewer 6-8/185 So.—SF 12.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 47.1% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 77.8% FT, 28 min/g
(42) Al Horford 6-8/235 So.—PF 11.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.8 bpg, 61.6% FG, 0% 3pt, 60.3% FT, 26 min/g
(13) Joakim Noah 6-11/227 So.—C 14.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.3 bpg, 1.1 spg, 62.9% FG, 0% 3pt, 72.7% FT, 25 min/g
(32) Chris Richard 6-8/245 Jr.—F 6.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.4 bpg, 0.4 spg, 69.6% FG, 0% 3pt, 69.2% FT, 17 min/g
(15) Walter Hodge 6-0/170 Fr.—G 4.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0 bpg, 1.0 spg, 39.8% FG, 37.3% 3pt, 66.7% FT, 20 min/g
(4) Adrian Moss 6-9/238 Sr.—F 3.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.1 bpg, 0.3 spg, 46.7% FG, 18.2% 3pt, 65.8% FT, 12 min/g
The Gators have the best up-tempo game of the four teams in the tournament. They shoot the ball better than any team, and they rarely have scoring droughts of three minutes or more. Their offensive weakness is the point guard position. Whereas Green can score points, he can be forced into making crucial mistakes when the game is on the line. In the SEC Tournament Championship against South Carolina, he threw up two stupid bricks in the final 90 seconds when Florida held a slim lead. Those shots allowed the Gamecocks to have a chance to win at the buzzer. Florida can be beaten when Green forces the offense. If Green plays like an upperclassman and Florida turns the ball over less than 15 times, they can waltz away with the title on Monday night. If Green tries to become Kobe Bryant and forces the issue, George Mason has a good chance to still be playing Monday.
Defensively, Florida is vastly underrated. Their quickness shuts off passing lanes and stops penetration. Their pressure isn't as devastating as previous years, but they can force an opponent to play at a tempo they wish to avoid.
Considering their size, Florida should be a better rebounding team than the stats show. In most of their losses, they have been out-rebounded.
Head Coach: Jim Larranaga 9th year at George Mason, 22nd year overall
(1) Tony Skinn 6-1/175 Sr.—PG 12.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.6 spg, 52.8% FG, 35.6% 3pt, 80.5% FT, 32 min/g
(22) Lamar Butler 6-2/165 Sr.—SG 12.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.2 bpg. 0.9 spg, 45.2% FG, 38.2% 3pt, 73.3% FT, 32 min/g
(42) Folarin Campbell 6-4/200 So.—SF 11.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.7 bpg, 0.8 spg, 48.9% FG, 34.0% 3pt, 75.5% FT, 31 min/g
(34) Will Thomas 6-7/220 So.—PF 11.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.7 bpg, 0.6 spg, 59.0% FG, 0% 3pt, 51.7% FT, 32 min/g
(55) Jai Lewis 6-7/275 Sr.—C 13.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.7 bpg, 1.4 spg, 52.8% FG, 35.6% 3 pt, 64.4% FT, 30 min/g
(5) Gabe Norwood 6-5/185 Jr.—G 3.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.7 bpg, 0.9 spg, 43.1% FG, 40.9% 3pt, 60.6% FT, 21 min/g
(50) Sammy Hernandez 6-5/230 Fr.—F 2.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.3 bpg, 0.2 spg, 52.5% FG, 37.5% 3pt, 27.8% FT, 11 min/g
Exactly 40 years ago, a little team from El Paso, Texas shocked the world by defeating Oklahoma City, Cincinnati, Kansas, Utah, and Kentucky to win the NCAA Championship. Is George Mason the new Texas Western? No! The 1966 Texas Western team lost only their regular season finale and entered the NCAA Tournament ranked number two in both polls.
That doesn't mean GMU won't win twice more and become the biggest Cinderella champion in NCAA history. The Patriots have shown they have the talent to knock off the big boys.
The strength of this team is its balance. All five starters can score on every possession. The three backcourt players have experience, intelligence, and quickness. Skinn, Butler, and Campbell can all drain the trey, penetrate to the hoop, and dish the rock. The two inside studs, Lewis and Thomas can shoot over players bigger than them. If they can go toe-to-toe with Horford and Noah, the Patriots will stay in this game. If it's close at the end, GMU's more experienced backcourt could decide the outcome.
Then again, if GMU fails to control the tempo, Florida can bury them quickly. Remember Penn in 1979: they beat Iona, North Carolina, Syracuse, and St. John's to advance to the Final Four where they promptly saw Magic Johnson and Michigan State run them off the floor 101-67.
L S U
Head Coach: John Brady 10th year at LSU, 17th year overall
(22) Darrel Mitchell 5-11/178 Sr.—PG 17.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 0.3 bpg, 2.0 spg, 43.8% FG, 40.0% 3pt, 75.9% FT, 37 min/g
(14) Garrett Temple 6-5/176 Fr.—SG 5.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.9 bpg, 1.1 spg, 34.4% ppg, 25.2% 3pt, 68.6% FT, 33 min/g
(1) Tasmin Mitchell 6-7/230 Fr.—SF 11.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.5 bpg, 1.5 spg, 44.5% FG, 29.5% 3pt, 75.3% FT, 34 min/g
(12) Tyrus Thomas 6-9/215 Fr.—PF 12.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 3.0 bpg, 1.0 spg, 61.0% FG, 100% 3pt (1 of 1), 65.4% FT, 25 min/g
(0) Glen Davis 6-9/310 So.—C 18.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.2 bpg, 1.3 spg, 50.2% FG, 26.1% 3pt, 68.8% FT, 32 min/g
(35) Darnell Lazare 6-8/240 Jr.—F 6.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.3 bpg, 0.6 spg, 49.2% FG, 100% 3 pt (1 of 1), 70.0% FT, 19 min/g
(15) Magnum Rolle 6-10/215 Fr.—F/C 2.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.6 bpg, 0.3 spg, 45.3% FG, 0% 3pt, 50.0% FT, 9 min/g
(4) Ben Voogd 6-1/175 Fr.—G 1.1 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 38.2% FG, 28.6% 3pt, 64.3% FT, 12 min/g
LSU has the best overall talent among the Final Four teams. That doesn't mean they don't have exploitable weaknesses. First, Darrel Mitchell is the point guard by default. Garrett Temple has some good skills and can contribute, but opponents can take the defender assigned to him and let him help on other Bayou Bengals.
Can you remember several past champions who rode the wave of a hot star? Remember Toby Bailey of UCLA in 1995? How about Glen Rice at Michigan in 1989, Jack Givens with Kentucky in 1978, or Gail Goodrich with UCLA in 1965? Tyrus Thomas looks like he could be the next in this line. When Thomas blocked a shot against Duke and simultaneously caught the ball, it provided the shot in the arm that energized the Tigers. From that moment, LSU has had the look of a champion. UCLA has no frontcourt player who can match up with him one-on-one.
LSU can win playing up-tempo or by slowing down the pace. The Tiger frontcourt can dominate UCLA if Darrel Mitchell and Temple can hold their own against the Bruins' stellar guards. The key to winning for LSU may actually be how much contribution the Tigers get from Rolle and Lazare. UCLA doesn't have the talent to match LSU in the paint, but they have loads of depth that can throw their weight around. Davis and Thomas will need multiple periods of rest, so it will be important for the frontcourt reserves to hold their own.
This game will either be close and decided by a point or two or LSU will blow the Bruins off the floor. I cannot see a scenario where UCLA wins comfortably.
Head Coach: Ben Howland 3rd year at UCLA, 12th year overall
(1) Jordan Farmar 6-2/180 So.—PG 13.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.2 apg, 0.3 bpg, 1.1 spg, 41.0% FG, 33.7% 3pt, 72.4% FT, 30 min/g
(4) Arron Afflalo 6-5/210 So.—SG 16.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.1 bpg, 0.6 spg, 47.1% FG, 37.2% 3pt, 80.1% FT, 34 min/g
(21) Cedric Bozeman 6-6/207 Sr.—SF 7.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.1 bpg, 0.9 spg, 50.3% FG, 40.0% 3 pt, 76.9% FT, 28 min/g
(23) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 6-7/215 Fr.—PF 8.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.6 bpg, 1.1 spg, 54.5% FG, 14.3% 3pt, 71.2% FT, 29 min/g
(15) Ryan Hollins 7-0/225 Sr.—C 6.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.9 bpg, 0.2 spg, 63.1% FG, 0% 3pt, 58.7% FT, 22 min/g
(2) Darren Collison 6-0/155 Fr.—G 5.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.1 bpg, 0.9 spg 40.8% FG, 33.9% 3pt, 78.4% FT, 19 min/g
(12) Alfred Aboya 6-8/242 Fr.—F/C 3.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.2 bpg, 0.5 spg, 64.4% FG, 0% 3pt, 48.9% FT, 14 min/g
(14) Lorenzo Mata 6-8/235 So.—C 3.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.1 apg, 1.2 bpg, 0.3 spg, 52.1% FG, 0% 3pt, 61.1% FT, 14 min/g
(20) Michael Roll 6-5/205 Fr.—G/F 3.6 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.1 bpg, 0.3 spg, 37.3% FG, 38.9% 3pt, 71.4% FT, 15 min/g
(11) Ryan Wright 6-8/230 Fr.—F 2.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.2 spg, 56.6% FG, 0% 3pt, 41.9% FT
UCLA has the most depth by far amongst the last four playing, but at this point, depth isn't as important as during the regular season. Timeouts last about two and a half minutes, and the teams have had six or seven days off prior to the semi-finals.
The Bruins backcourt is a shade better than George Mason's and ranks as the best in this group. The frontcourt is loaded with players, but none of them have the quality of Florida's or LSU's and even George Mason's frontcourt is a little better. Afflalo and Farmar will both have to enjoy outstanding games for the Bruins to advance to Monday night's final. Look for another one of those games where only 100-120 total points will be scored.
UCLA has a knack for falling behind then going on a large run by holding the opponent scoreless for long stretches. Credit this to excellent adjustments made on the Bruin bench.
Note: UCLA's strength and conditioning coach is former Vandy strength coach E.J. "Doc" Kreis. While he was in the same position at Colorado, he purchased the house formerly owned by John and Patsy (JonBenet) Ramsey.
How The Computers See The Final Four
According to the consensus of the 10 most accurate computer ratings for which I have access, this is going to be one of the most competitive Final Fours ever. Florida is the pick to win it all by the slimmest of margins. The Gators' computer average tops UCLA's and LSU's by one point, while George Mason brings up the rear just three points behind LSU and UCLA.
In order to determine a winner between the Bruins and Tigers, I had to carry out the decimal places to thousandths! LSU is a 4/1000-point pick to beat UCLA. Florida is a four-point pick over George Mason. Florida is then a one-point pick over LSU (or UCLA) for the title.
Statistically, what this means is that Florida has about a 28% chance of winning it all; LSU and UCLA have 25% chances each; and George Mason has a 22% chance.