And then, there were two. Here is my take:
I. TONIGHT'S GAMES
GMU had a great run. Maybe they were a little nervous, not expecting to get this far. But they clearly did not look like the GMU of the previous rounds, especially in the second half.
But, don't be fooled. Florida is the better team on paper and on the court. Billy Donovan had his team prepared for this particular game and did not let them look past it. Florida has looked good throughout the tourney, I have to say that I am not at all surprised, they have made to the final game. A lot of credit goes to the coach.
But, as for GMU, there is nothing to be ashamed about in the least. And if the powers that be in that program play their cards right, they will use this as a valuable recruiting tool. If they do, they build a good program and they will be back. Blow it, and they end up like Indiana State. (After Bird left, they have pretty much stunk. No marketing, no effort.)
What can you say? The naysayers said that UCLA did not have a defense. And yet, for the second game in a row, they have held their opponent to 45 points. With that kind of effort, you do not need a lot of offense and can suffer some scoring droughts like they had at times tonight. But I would also say, some of UCLA's dry spells on the offensive end were due some pretty good "D", on the part of LSU. UCLA was able to get some runs going at different points, LSU just never could get into a rhythm (or a run).
The reason UCLA's defense is so good in one word, would be: Hands.
Their hands get into passing lanes, force altered passes and/or shots, and get tips/swats to thoroughly disrupt the play. They also swarm the ball at times and force off-balanced shots. By the time a team starts to get good looks and takes a few good shots, they miss them. Because, they have already gotten into their heads and made the opposition act tentatively.
II. THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
First of all, I make no secret for my bias towards UCLA. But, I also have to say that if Florida was playing almost anyone else, I would be rooting for them. I do not like Florida football (Uof F, FSU, or Miami), at all. And since it is a football state, I cannot but help being glad that the basketball program is in much better shape, than the football program. Additionally, I do like Billy Donovan. He is one good coach, both as a strategist and a motivator. He is top-notch.
But the thing that impresses me about UCLA besides the defense, is the depth. Notice how well the bench played, especially on defense. At the end of the second half, 4 of the 5 UCLA starters were on the bench and still LSU could not gain ground on them. UCLA has the horses, Florida has the coaching. But Monday night, something will have to give.
For Florida to win, they will have to play the game of their lives and not allow UCLA to dictate. They will have to play good defense and put pressure on the three-point shooters, by either getting them out of position to shoot or by keeping hands in their faces, as they shoot. They cannot allow the Bruins to get the hot hand, or it will be "wait til next year time" for the Gators. (Remember, UCLA has not gotten extremely hot in either of the last two games and still made it look easy.)
UCLA must keep Noah from having his way and must do much of the same things as they did tonight. They have the talent, they have the depth, and they have both quick feet and hands. They react to the ball very well, with both. They are a quick thinking and reacting bunch for sure, but they must be careful not to get too impetuous. They must remember that Florida is able to push the tempo, as well. They cannot allow it, if they want to win.
Prediction: UCLA (Were you really surprised?)