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2007 NCAA Tournament Final Four Preview

While all taking seemingly different paths over the past two weeks, Florida, UCLA, Georgetown and Ohio State all now share one thing in common: their journey's end result. The Final Four in Atlanta is their destination, with a national title up for grabs. With a plethora of stars on all four squads, and solid coaching on the bench, this weekend is shaping up to be one of the best Final Four's in recent memory. The Gators and Bruins, who met in last year's Championship Game, are back with a vengeance and plenty of experience. Ohio State is back for the first time since its run in 1999, while Georgetown is in for the first time in over two decades.

On Saturday Georgetown and Ohio State will kick off the national semi-finals, with Florida and UCLA facing off in the late game.



#1 Ohio State vs. #2 Georgetown @ 6:07 p.m. (ET)

Big 10 meets Big East in this first national semi-final game of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes are led by freshman phenom Greg Oden and a deep, talented backcourt that can really spread out an opponent's defense. The Hoyas rely on Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green and enormous center Roy Hibbert.

Ohio State is coming off an impressive 92-76 win over Memphis on Saturday in which they had yet another very balanced attack. Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Ron Lewis, and Jamar Butler all reached double figures in scoring, with Conley, Lewis, and Butler going a combined 25-26 from the free throw line.

Oden played a particularly impressive game on the defensive end, shutting down the paint for Memphis. The 7-footer was disruptive enough down low to limit Memphis' talented forwards Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier to just 9 points combined.

Georgetown rides into Atlanta on the tails of a thrilling overtime victory over North Carolina in the Elite 8. The Hoyas spread the ball extremely well, with all five starters scoring at least 13 points, in shooting 57.6% from the field.

Jeff Green continued his great tournament play with a stellar 22-point 9-rebound performance, while Roy Hibbert may have played the best game of his career. The 7'-2" center was very efficient with the basketball, and did a solid job defensively against the Tar Heel's frontcourt tandem of Tyler Hansbrough and Brandon Wright.

 

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Match Ups

 

Frontcourt
Despite Ohio State having Oden, the best center to hit college basketball since Tim Duncan, Georgetown has the advantage down low. Roy Hibbert is probably the only player in the country who can physically match up with Oden, not only in regards to height, but pound for pound as well. If this were simply a one-on-on match up, Oden, who is the better player, would have the clear advantage. Enter Jeff Green though, and the Hoyas have too much talent down low for Oden to handle by himself. Othello Hunter has provided some solid play off the bench for the Buckeyes, but he isn't versatile enough to cover the very athletic Green on the block.

 

Backcourt
Jonathan Wallace and Jesse Sapp have played well for Georgetown, running the offense and protecting the ball, but defensively they will be no match for the fire power Ohio State brings on the perimeter. Mike Conley, Jr. is one of the best point guards in the country right now. He has fantastic handle, great court vision, and is very hard to cover due to his craftiness going to the basket. Ron Lewis, Daequan Cook, and Jamar Butler are all pure scorers who can shoot from behind the arc.

Georgetown's backcourt players have played well throughout the tournament, but they won't be able to stop everything Ohio State will throw at them.

 

Ohio State vs. Georgetown Prediction

Youth won't be an issue in this contest for Ohio State. They are athletic, talented, and have proven already in this tournament they are capable of stepping up in pressure situations. Greg Oden may have his hands full down low with Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert, but his teammates will overpower Georgetown's guards due to sheer numbers.

Ohio State 78 – Georgetown 72

 

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#1 Florida vs. #2 UCLA @ 8:47 p.m. (ET)

A rematch of last year's National Championship game should prove to be a stellar semi-final game, with Florida looking to become the first repeat champ since Duke in 1991 and 1992, and UCLA trying to exact some revenge.

Florida let Oregon hang around for most of their Elite 8 match up before coming away with an 85-77 win. The Gators got a strong 14-point, 14-rebound performance from Joakim Noah, but the real star was Lee Humphrey who got hot from outside, connecting on 7 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc. Florida played strong interior defense, blocking 5 shots and out-rebounding the Ducks 35-21.

UCLA had the most impressive Elite 8 win, knocking off a very talented Kansas Jayhawk team 68-55. The Bruins' stellar defense was on display, only allowing two Kansas players to reach double figures and garnering 15 steals. All-American Arron Aflalo led the charge offensively scoring 24 points on 10-15 shooting from the field.

 

Match Ups

Frontcourt
Florida has a clear advantage down low. Joakim Noah, last year's Final Four Most Outstanding Player, will be a top-10 pick in the NBA Draft, and Al Horford should go in the first round as well. Together they make up the best frontcourt in the nation, with Noah providing the hustle and Horford bringing his strength and athleticism. UCLA's big men Lorenzo Mata and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are no slouches either, but the two scrappy forwards will have to play huge games defensively if they want to shut down the Gators' inside game.

 

Backcourt
This one is a coin toss. Both team's have very strong point guards, and great wing players to complement them. Taurine Green of Florida has more experience than UCLA's Darren Collison, but Collison can make a claim to being the fastest player in the country, especially off the dribble. The Gators call on Lee Humphrey to light things up from the outside, while the Bruins can bring Michael Roll off the bench to score from behind the arc. The real key match up is between Corey Brewer of Florida and Arron Aflalo of UCLA. Brewer is long, athletic, and very dangerous going to the basket with his explosiveness. Aflalo was named a First Team All-American for a reason: he shows tremendous leadership on the floor, is very smart with the basketball, and plays big when it counts.

Since Florida the clear advantage inside, perimeter play will be the make or break point for UCLA in this game.

 

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UCLA vs. Florida Prediction

This UCLA team has felt the sting of losing to Florida in a big game once already, and that is enough for them. The Bruins match up better with Florida than probably either Georgetown or Ohio State do, and with their fantastic defense they will be able to slow down the Gators just enough to advance to the finals.

UCLA 70 – Florida 68

 

By Joey Whelan, CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer

 


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