Friday, April 04, 2008

Final Four Matchups and Predictions

For the first time since the NCAA tournament increased to 64 teams (now 65), all four of the regional #1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four. While North Carolina, Memphis and UCLA had relatively easy times getting to the promised land in San Antonio, Kansas, the #1 seed from the Midwest region, survived a bit of a scare from Davidson in the regional final, winning by two points, the lowest margin of any of the remaining teams.

UCLA and Memphis also had their tough games. The Bruins won by just two points over Texas A&M in the second round, while Memphis beat Mississippi State by three in their second round contest.

While the Jayhawks did struggle with Davidson, they do match up with the other number ones in other criteria. All four teams won their respective conference's regular season and post-season tournament.

Memphis, though they play in the somewhat second tier Conference-USA, went through both their regular season conference schedule and tournament without suffering a loss.

Here's the breakdown on the Final Four teams:

North Carolina Tar Heels

Record: 36-2

Conference Record (ACC): 14-2

Current streak: 15 games.

Average win margin in tournament: 25.25 points

Top Scorer, Rebounder Tyler Hansbrough, 22.8; Tyler Hansbrough, 10.3

Worst defeat: 89-78 vs. Duke, Feb.6

Kansas Jayhawks

Record: 35-3

Conference Record (Big 12): 13-3

Current streak: 11 games.

Average win margin in tournament: 15.00 points

Top Scorer, Rebounder Brandon Rush, 13.1; Darnell Jackson, 6.7

Worst defeat: 84-75, at Kansas St., January 30

Memphis Tigers

Record: 37-1

Conference Record (Conf.-USA): 16-0

Current streak: 11 games.

Average win margin in tournament: 15.07

Top Scorer, Rebounder Chris Douglas-Roberts, 17.7; Joey Dorsey, 9.6

Worst defeat: 66-62, vs. Tennessee, February 23

UCLA Bruins

Record: 35-3

Conference Record (PAC-10): 16-2

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Current streak: 14 games

Average win margin in tournament: 18.00

Top Scorer, Rebounder Kevin Love, 17.6; Kevin Love, 10.7

Worst defeat: 71-61, at Washington, February 10

Saturday's Games:

Memphis (-2) UCLA 6:07 pm EDT
The Bruins and Tigers are going to tangle both in the lane and on the perimeter, but this game has the makings of a mismatch as Memphis has a definite size advantage inside with baby bull Robert Dozier and the monstrous Joey Dorsey. Both are capable of handling super frosh Kevin Love, who may have to move more to the outside for scoring. He has a nice touch from 12 feet in, so the short jumper could be his strong suit.

Give Memphis a huge advantage on the boards as well, although UCLA's Luc Mbah a Moute is a great leaper and plays solid positional basketball. Simply put, Dozier and Dorsey are a wrecking crew.

Outside, Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook match up well with Memphis guards Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, but nobody's been able to adequately cover Douglas-Roberts for an entire game, and the Memphis substitution regime - which includes a 10-deep rotation of players seeing 28 or more minutes - consists of at least six players at the guard positions. UCLA only goes as deep as Josh Shipp, and that's not likely to be enough.

Memphis could turn this into a rout if UCLA isn't hitting their outside shots. While the Bruins are making their third straight trip to the Final Four, Memphis returns to the Alamodome with their loss to Ohio State in last year's regional final still very much on their minds.

Prediction: Memphis 67 UCLA 61

North Carolina (-2) Kansas 8:47 pm EDT
Roy Williams used to coach the Kansas Jayhawks and now faces the possibility of removing them from the title challenge. Since Williams left, Bill Self has done a credible job at Kansas and has finally reached the Final Four, but this looks like where the dream ends.

The Tar Heels have too many offensive weapons and are too athletic for the Jayhawks to handle for a full forty minutes. In the post, Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur are solid, but handling Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough may be a task better suited for three men. Hansbrough never loses his cool and will lead Carolina to a meeting with Memphis.

Kansas has had trouble maintaining offense at times, with Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson all running into defensive schemes or players that shut them down for considerable periods of time in recent games. They seem willing to settle for jumpers rather than slashing to the hoop, and that's going to cause some pain against the Tar Heels, who, though not noted for defense, usually do a very good job of it.

On the outside, Ty Lawson and super-sub Danny Green can light it up on either the fast break or from the 3-point line, which spells more trouble for Kansas. Once the Tar Heels get the lead, don't expect them to give it back. This one's over before it starts.

Prediction: North Carolina 86 Kansas 75

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