Monday, March 26, 2007

Gators, Hoyas, Bruins, Buckeyes Head to Atlanta

Give the tournament selection committee a round of applause.

Two teams seeded #1 in their respective regions, the Florida Gators and Ohio State Buckeyes, head into the Final Four the favorites over a pair of #2 seeds which arguably could have been 1s.

Georgetown, the #2 seed in the East, know the second fiddle role well. For much of the regular season, they weren't even ranked in the Top 25, trailing the Pitt Panthers in the standings through the midway point of the Big East campaign.

On January 13, following consecutive losses to conference foes Villanova and Pittsburgh, the Hoyas were just 11-5. But, just as people were beginning to write Georgetown - and their twin towers of Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert - off, they reeled off 11 straight wins, culminating with a 61-53 revenge win against Pitt.

Two days later, the Hoyas lost a road game at Syracuse, but finished with a win over UConn to capture the Big East title at 13-3.

But the Hoyas weren't done. Not even close. They swept through the Big East tournament, knocking off Villanova and Notre Dame before hammering Pitt, this time by a shocking 65-42 score. While North Carolina was winning the ACC tournament and locking up the #1 seed, the Hoyas came in as a hungry #2, knocked off Belmont, Boston College and Vanderbilt to set up the match with the Tar Heels.

For most of the game, it looked as though they would go home losers to the top seed, until they rallied late in the game, tying the score on Jonathan Wallace's 3-pointer to force overtime at 81-all.

The Hoyas left no doubt in the OT, outscoring Carolina 15-3 in a convincing performance. Georgetown will face Ohio State in one of the two semi-final games on Saturday, March 31.Sports Training Products

The Buckeyes, 92-76 winners over South #2 seed Memphis on Saturday, ended the Tigers' 25-game winning streak by extending their own to 20 straight, now the longest in the nation.

The UCLA Bruins took an entirely different path to their #2 seeding in the West region. After being ranked in the Top 10 most of the season and wrapping up the PAC-10 title with a win over Washington State, the Bruins came up flat in their regular season finale at Washington, losing 61-51 and looking lethargic the whole time. Then, in the opening round of the PAC-10 tournament, the Bruins unexpectedly fell to lightly-regarded Cal, 76-69.

That was likely the game that cost the Bruins a #1 seeding, which went to Kansas instead. The Bruins, however, got the last laugh on both the Jayhawks and the selection committee, thumping Kansas in the regional final on Saturday, 68-55.

The Bruins head to Atlanta with a renewed confidence to face Florida, the top seed from the Midwest region. The defending national champion Gators beat Oregon, 85-77, to reach the Final Four for the second consecutive year. The game is a rematch of last year's championship.

The Georgetown-Ohio State game will be the first semi-final, with tip-off scheduled for 6:07 pm EDT. Florida and UCLA will take the floor roughly 30 minutes after the conclusion of that game.

Tomorrow: Conference scoreboard and peak performers.
Wednesday: Breakdown of Ohio State - Georgetown
Thursday: Breakdown of Florida - UCLA
Friday: Final analysis and picks

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