How much of a chance did the experts give you to win the National Title this year??
Jim Nantz and Billy Packer just have to over-analyse, don't they?
At the end of their telecast of the Final Four on Saturday....they remarked about what an uneventful day it was. One 15-pt game and one 14-pt game. Lest they forget that last year's Final Four featured a 15-pt Illinois win and a 16-pt North Carolina win?? The Monday title tilt was a darn good game.
The two teams who have played best during the NCAA Tournament are going to meet for the Championship.
UCLA and Florida.
Florida was the only team to have two 20+ pt blowouts in tournament. Aside from a low-scoring affair against Georgetown, they've not really been threatened. UCLA has the biggest blowout of the tournament [over Belmont] and aside from the first half against Gonzaga....they've been in a bit of control of every game [yeah, even the horrible Memphis game].
That's tournaments for you. Especially this one. In a season where only Duke or UConn held the #1 spot in the rankings.....and in a season that saw those two teams, Memphis, Gonzaga, Villanova and Texas hang around the Top 5.....it's amazing to many that none were alive after last Sunday. No JJ Redick.....no Adam Morrison. No Mighty UConn. No Kansas or North Carolina....aka those "hot young teams gelling at the right time" candidates. All of those storylines we were force fed all year to us.....when all the while it was the young, NBA-bled Florida Gators and the underappreciated UCLA Bruins. Two teams that, gasp, won their conference tournaments.
UCLA has been a defensive juggernaut. Against Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, they shut down the Zags over the final 8-10 minutes of the game. Then, they completely held down an offensive minded Memphis team. Then, last night, they held LSU to the 2nd lowest Final Four pointtotal in the shot clock era. They did whatever they wanted to against the same team that slammed Duke and Texas in a span of 3 days.
Florida has been stepping up the defense, too. This is a young team that saw three guys jump to the NBA from last year's squad. Think how good they'd be if they had stayed?? And of the "best team left" tag that has been on their chests since the Final Four was completed last Sunday.....they also were the most "hated" as they were the "other team" in the whole George Mason lovefest. And should we be sooo surprised that they are here? I mean, they were the last team to lose a game this season.
So on Monday Night, we get the matchup that absolutely no one saw coming. Florida-UCLA. So who will win?
I've been pimping Florida thru this tournament the same way I was slamming them all thru February. They've navigated thru this tournament will relative ease.....and have been able to adapt to different styles. G'town and their big men?? Check. Villanova and their little men? Check. They also have Billy Donovan as their coach....and the last SIX National Champions were led by a coach with previous Final Four experience. Donovan has it...no one else in Indy does.
But I will have to go against myself and pick UCLA to win this. Aside from the first half against Gonzaga.....UCLA has done a great job locking people down. They say that defense wins championships....and they are the better defensive team. Not only that, but they are a DEEPER team. Florida's bench has scored a COMBINED EIGHT POINTS IN THEIR LAST THREE GAMES!!!!! Yeah, just 8 pts. Sure, UCLA's bench isn't a scoring behemeth....but they do run a ton of guys out there, and those guys can play a bunch of minutes. They aren't just there to stall while a starter gets some rest.
UCLA just shut down LSU and that tough front line. Something even Sheldon Williams nor DeMarcus Aldridge could do. But, again, what impressed me most was their ability to do whatever they wanted on offense. Something that JJ Redick nor PJ Tucker could do.
This should be a great game....with some offensive flow as well as some defensive pressure. It will not be the kind of game last year's Carolina-Illinois game was at all. This one will be physical, testy, and most likely end up in the 50s. And could be with UCLA winning their 12th title.
At least that's what I think