I love the NCAA Tourney and especially the Final Four.
In a nutshell, I like the college game better than the pro game. With a longer shot clock, there's more opportunity to set up plays. In the pros, it seems there is more run, shoot, and repeat - with less emphasis on ball movement and passing. Defense (which always wins titles more times than not, in any sport) is stressed more. Since the days of the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan, the pros have been playing better defense than in years before. That much is true. But, I can remember when a typical NBA score would have both teams in the 100s-120s on a given night and if there was a poor shooting night, the scores could dip into the 90s.
In the NCAA, most of the kids are there for the game and some are there to tune up for the pros. But, despite the fact that many of them have dreams of playing in the NBA for large paychecks, the vast majority are not going to make it.
The match-ups as I see them are as follows:
Ohio State - Georgetown
Mike Conley (PG) and Greg Oden (C) both graduated with my son, so I know their game well. They won 3 straight Indiana HS 4A titles in a row, so they expect to win. That's all they have known. They are the leaders of the Buckeyes and the force behind why they have made it this far. Conley is every bit as good at his position, as the much praised 7 foot Oden is at his. Maybe even better. Oden must stay out foul trouble early, something young big freshmen tend to do.
Georgetown is not here by default. They shut down NC last week and got hot offensively in the OT period. They play in the best conference in the country and are not a fluke at all. Whether they can keep up with the depth OSU brings or not, remains to be seen. Containing Oden won't be easy, because he does so many things that do not show up on the stat sheet. He forces you to alter your shot unless you can catch him off balance and leaning the wrong way.
Florida - UCLA
Florida is the champ until someone says they are not. They are a good functioning team. Noah provides the height inside and there is balance at every position. They are a machine, and a confident one at that. They will need to execute well, because UCLA plays stellar defense and does not allow teams to get into rhythm very often.
Whether or not Noah gets to pound his chest like some bare-knuckled, John L. Sullivan-like prize fighter will depend on how well he can spark his team. He had better. Because I do not think he will much of an impact player in the NBA. He certainly won't be pounding his chest 82 games a year. And being a lottery pick, will pretty much guarantee him a spot with a losing team.
Prediction: This is a tough one. My head says Florida, but my heart says UCLA. UCLA will also be out for revenge for last year. I will go with UCLA.