Friday , Mar , 30 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Final Four Predictions

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The Florida Gators are 8-5 favorites to
join the 1991-92 Duke squad as the last college team to repeat as champions.
Can they get past UCLA and the winner of the Georgetown-Ohio State match-up?
The public thinks so and after watching them put on a clinic against Oregon,
this reporter has become a believer as well.

I had mentioned to my co-workers right before that contest how Lee Humphrey
will be the Gators key component to advance to the Final Four. Florida needed
someone to combat the Ducks three-point shooting and the only senior starter
on the team came through about as effectively as anyone could, nailing seven
of 13 from downtown.

There was never a doubt that the Gators would win the game, but covering the
seven-point spread was a different story. The final minute, which saw Oregon
fight back to cut the deficit to four, was a nail biter for those who wagered
on the contest.

Florida opened up the lead to seven in the closing seconds, but the Ducks had
a chance to cover if they would have made just one basket. Their three-point
try failed, which set the contest up for the push, but with just over one
second to go and the outcome of the game well at hand, Oregon fouls Corey
Brewer. His first attempt was off the mark, but the second shot sailed through
the hoop and the Gators walked off with an eight-point victory and the cover.

The other match-up from Sunday was an instant classic. North Carolina seemed
to be on the verge of reaching its second Final Four in three years, holding a
six-point advantage at the half, and extending that lead to 10 points with
just over six minutes to go. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, a victory was
not in the cards. In fact, the Heels were on their way to an incredible
collapse, hitting just one of 23 shots in a 15-minute span.

Georgetowns defense failed to show up, but the much-maligned offense picked
up the slack. This game was very reminiscent of its Big East Tournament match-
up with Notre Dame, a contest the Hoyas won, 84-82. They shot 53% from the
field that day and proved they could win a high-scoring affair.

It is doubtful Georgetown will shoot that high when Ohio State comes high-
stepping on the court at the Georgia Dome, but the Hoyas wont need an
explosive offensive attack vs. the Buckeyes. This contest will be a defensive
battle with the two big men, Roy Hibbert and Greg Oden taking center stage.


These two clubs squared off in last seasons NCAA Tournament with Georgetown
coming out on top, 70-52. Hibbert and Jeff Green were at their best in that
game combining for 39 points and 22 rebounds. It is true Oden and Michael
Conley Jr. were still in high school at the time, but the Buckeyes were also a
two-seed, while the Hoyas were a seven last year.

The odds for both of these clubs to win it all are extremely close as
Georgetown is 14-5 and Ohio State is 3-1 or 15-5. The Hoyas are a slight one-
point favorite in the game, despite being a two-seed up against a one. A lot
of that has to do with their win over Carolina, while Ohio State put in a
workmanlike performance over Memphis.

Defense will be the story in this one since both teams opponents have
averaged less than 40% shooting the last seven games. The one difference? Ohio
States last three victims, Xavier, Nevada and Memphis, have all shot 40% or
better, while Georgetown has allowed just one of its seven opponents to reach
that barrier, the Commodores who barely got above that mark at 41%.

Most of the talks this tournament has centered on Greg Oden, from his
controversial non-intentional foul call vs. Xavier, to the lack of playing
time the last few games due to foul trouble. Oden has picked up 13 fouls the
last three contests, but when hes been on the court, the freshman center has
delivered, as evidenced by his 17 point, nine-rebound performance in just 24
minutes vs. Memphis. Nonetheless, going up against Hibbert will be his
toughest test.

The center from Georgetown has raised his game to another level this
tournament with four consecutive double-doubles. Hibbert has a more
experienced supporting cast than Oden and that will definitely come into play
during the pressure-packed moments on Saturday evening.

This match-up will be close throughout, but the Hoyas will prevail late and
hang on for the win. Their exceptional free throw shooting will be the
difference the final two minutes since, three of their top four scorers are
averaging 77% or better from the charity stripe, while the fourth, Hibbert,
stands at 70%.


Florida and UCLA will meet once more, but this time the result will not
determine the National Champion. The Bruins reached Atlanta with a relatively
easy, 68-55 win over top-seeded Kansas, getting 24 points on 10-15 shooting
from Arron Afflalo. However, the 24 turnovers cannot be discounted and if they
play a similar game vs. Florida, they will have no chance for revenge.

Florida defeated Oregon, 85-77 with only 20 points coming from the inside duo
of Joakim Noah and Al Horford. These two big men combined for 30 points on 12
of 17 from the field in last seasons title game, but more importantly, they
dominated the defensive side of the game with 16 rebounds and eight blocks.

UCLAs Arron Afflalo was off the mark for most of that contest, nailing just
three of 10 from the field and the Bruins were very hesitant to drive down the
lane. They only went to the line 14 times and six of those shots came from the
departed Cedric Bozeman.

The Gators are favored by 3 points and should easily cover setting up a
Florida-Georgetown championship game.


The 8-5 favored Gators will rule the country once again as they take apart an
out-manned Hoya squad by double digits. The “Gator Nation” will be dancing in
the streets, leaving the rest of the United States to wonder when a basketball
or football team from outside Gainesville will ever win another title.