Sunday , Mar , 26 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

NCAA Basketball Tournament: The Elite 8

The theme for the Elite 8 was that if it didn’t go to overtime, it wasn’t close. Two of the games were controlled by one team from the get go, while the other two had to go to an extra five minute period to decide the winner. The final four is now set, with no one seeds for the first time in twenty years.

LSU 70 Texas 60
After LSU recovered from their slow start, no team was able to break away from the other in this one. Tyrus Thomas and Glen Davis were the unstoppable force that they’ve been all tournament long. After being significantly out played by Sheldon Williams, Glen Davis answered his doubters by outplaying potential number one pick Lamarcus Aldridge. Glen Davis had 26 points along with 9 boards while holding Aldridge to 2-14 shooting from the field. He pushed Lamarcus out from his comfort zone and kept him from getting anything to the basket, while abusing him with his size down low. Despite not getting much offensive production from Aldridge and Tucker, Texas was able to send it into OT on a Daniel Gibson three off a broken play.

In OT though, it was all LSU. When Glen Davis hit his only three of the tournament, it was obvious the period belonged to the Tigers, and it did. Aided by some key buckets from Garret Temple and Tazmin Mitchell, along with some key rebounded by Tyrus Thomas, who was battling with a nasty case of cramps in his hamstrings, the Tigers are going to their first final four in twenty years.
UCLA 50 Memphis 45
Ben Howland knew what it would take to beat this team from the get go. "If they score 88 points, we won’t win." and he had visual evidence to back it up as the Memphis Tigers beat the Bruins 88-80 in a preseason NIT game. UCLA played to their strengths this time though, holding Memphis to almost half the amount of points they scored in their first meeting. Neither team shot over 35% from the field. It’s took four years, but Ryan Hollins has become a presence. His 14 points and 9 boards, along with Aaron Afflalo’s 15 points helped the Bruins get back to a place they haven’t seen in awhile, the final four.
George Mason 86 UConn 84
Uconn hasn’t been performing up to their potential all tournament long. They needed late heroics every game against significantly less talented teams. On the other hand, George Mason has been playing way above their potential all tournament, and were ready to give UConn everything they had. Uconn put together a late first half run to give themselves a 9 point lead going into the half, but those George Mason players don’t go away. In the second half, they milked Jai Lewis and Will Thomas, who just dominated Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone. Lewis and Thomas combined for 39 points and 19 boards, to Armstrong and Boone’s 14 and 9. Armstrong and Boone are two guys who are firmly on the NBA radar, and to get dominated by two guys who were going to going to go out and use their degrees after this season is just unacceptable. George Mason was in control late in the game, but Rudy Gay kept the Huskies close. Gay finally showed the assertiveness that Huskie fans have been waiting on for two years. Up two with five seconds left, 80% free throw shooter Tony Skinn went to the line and missed the front end of a one and one. Marcus Williams pushed the ball up the court and gave it to Denham Brown who scored on a reverse lay up over two George Mason players to send it into OT.
With Brown’s incredible lay up, UConn seemingly had the momentum. This wasn’t the case, as all Brown’s lay up did was delay George Mason’s next incredible upset five minutes. The Huskies were only able to get one stop in the extra period, and couldn’t muster together the offense to make up for their inability to stop the Patriots. Denham Brown’s three that was too long ended UConn’s disappointing and lackluster tournament run. All that talent and all those future pros from Uconn had the road paved for them to the final four. The toughest team they had to play was Washington, yet they weren’t able to put together one good game, or even get to the final four. When looking back at this season, the Huskies should be full of regrets, as no team was close to them talent wise and they grossly underachieved.
Florida 75 Villanova 62
A large reason why Boston College couldn’t beat Florida was because they only have one dominant low post presence to go at Villanova’s four guard line up. Florida, largely in part to the dominance of Joakim Noah and Al Horford, were able to really take it to Villanova’s lack of size. Noah’s 21 and 15 along with Horford’s 12 and 15 helped the Gators control the game. The Wildcats were able to cause 16 turnovers, but got relatively nothing from Kyle Lowry, Mike Nardi, and Allan Ray. Villanova was able to snag 22 offensive rebounds, but that was largely in part to their 24.7% shooting from the field. Villanova was a one seed, but with their small line up it wasn’t hard to see them struggle against a bigger and stronger Florida team.
So the final four is now set. Florida will go up against a George Mason team that has had to go through Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and the nation’s pick to win it all, Connecticut. LSU, and all their incredible athleticism, will go up against UCLA and their unmatched history. It’s been an incredible tournament up to this point, and the last three games should be no different.