Friday, March 30, 2007

Final Four preview

As you know, The Monk picked all four Final Four teams. But if The Monk had to pick his Final Four games all over again, he might choose an OSU-UCLA final instead of an OSU-Florida final. There are too many warning signs pointing to a Florida fall for my comfort. All that soon, first let's preview game 1.

OSU v. Georgetown will be interesting. Ultimately, this may be the test for John Thompson III's game-planning abilities. He's had all week to prepare for a zone defense -- much more time than he had when the Hoyas got thumped by Syracuse. Unlike Boston College and Vanderbilt, who are not primarily zone teams but who limited Georgetown's effectiveness with a zone defense, OSU plays a lot of 2-3. Tennessee shot OSU out of the zone, if Georgetown can do the same OSU would have to face the back screening Princeton Offense in man defense.

There has been a lot of discussion about the "dinosaur" aspect of the game -- two true back-to-the-basket post players in Oden and Hibbert. Oden is more athletic and smooth, Hibbert is larger and taller. OSU's advantage is in the backcourt because Mike Conley Jr. has played so well this year; Georgetown's equalizer is Jeff Green.

The Monk still thinks OSU will win because it will zone the Hoyas. These teams are champions of premier conferences who dominated their leagues all season, therefore the only surprise would be a blowout win by either.

Game 2 is a danger game. Where teams have played earlier in the season meet again in the NCAA Tournament, and those teams are not from the same conference (therefore they don't see each other frequently and know the opponent's patterns) often have a different winner in the rematch. Examples? Syracuse-Ohio State in 1983, Syracuse-Navy in 1986, Arizona-Kansas in 2003. No, Florida and UCLA didn't play earlier this year, but they played in last season's title game and had basically the same lineups. Does this mean advantage UCLA?

The punditocracy believes UCLA will win because its defense is so good. The Monk thinks that this is bollocks: ultimately basketball is an OFFENSIVE game and the team that executes better will win. Florida is #2 in the nation in offensive efficiency, much better than Kansas (#18); UCLA is #22. Florida is a very good defensive team (#12); UCLA is one of the best (#2). Offense wins. And Florida has offense at every position -- an attack that could render even UCLA flummoxed.


Unless the Gators, their coaching staff, their head coach or some small part of the team in some corner of its collective mind is concerned about Billy Donovan. The Gators' coach has been rumored to be the first choice of Kentucky to fill its vacant head coaching position. Kentucky is one of the legendary programs in the country (UCLA, North Carolina, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky). Florida is a football school first, no matter how well the basketball team does. The last fast-talking Northeastern Catholic to run that program took it to three Final Fours, two more Final Eights and a national title.

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