NCAA Final Four: Let the Playoff Begin

Andrew TongeAnalyst IIMarch 30, 2008

Part of the allure of the NCAA tournament is trying to predict the upsets and the number one seed that will go down first.  On a whole, the underdogs, like the Davidson’s and Western Kentucky’s, make for great storylines, and great players get exposure that they would not have gotten otherwise.  We want to know about the Stephen Currys, and the other great players that are not playing in the power conferences, and we have a penchant for rooting for them.

That being said, we also want to know who is really the best college basketball team in the nation.  When it comes down to it, I want to see the highest seeded teams in the tournament playing in the elite 8 and final 4.  This is the closest thing we have to a real playoff.

As much as we enjoy the upsets I believe we look forward to crowning a clear cut champion at year’s end.  The only way for that to happen is for the 1 seeds, and the 2 seeds to go deep into the tournament.

In effect, what we have now is a full-fledged playoff.  UCLA vs. Memphis, and Kansas vs. North Carolina.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  All four 1 seeds made it to the final four for the first time. 

You have to install North Carolina as the favorite to win it all at this point.  On offense they can beat you with finesse, or power.  Ty Lawson is key because he sets the pace of the game and I have yet to see a team effectively trap him in the open court.  Danny Green and Wayne Ellington not only provide scoring from outside, but are dangerous going to the basket and in transition.  They are all superlative defenders as well. 

Tyler Hansbrough completes them as a team.  He provides toughness and an interior presense that makes them almost unguardable.  When their up tempo game is not working, they always have the option to dump it into Hansbrough and let him go to work. 

He is unrelenting on the boards and is always around the ball.  They are the most dangerous team and have no weaknesses.

Louisville was a good test for them because they play a similar style to North Carolina, and they come at you in waves.  Louiville’s athletes matched up well, but were too error prone late in the game to pull off the upset.  

Kansas is the most vulnerable final four team.  They get after you on defense with their perimeter players and Darrell Arthur is a beast inside.  They are deep, and everyone contributes offensively. 

Their defense and rebounding give them a lot of easy transition baskets normally, but if that isn’t happening, then they will be in trouble against North Carolina.  Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers will have to shoot well to over-come that, and that will be difficult with N.C.’s defense. 

For Kansas to have a chance to win, it will be with their defense leading the way, not their offense. 

UCLA comes in to the final four with momentum, but with question marks also.  Darren Collison played well against Xavier, but has had an inconsistent tournament.  He has been up and down.  Josh Shipp is not confident with his shooting and seems to pass up open looks.  He hasn’t looked that good.

Kevin Love is the straw that stirs UCLA’s drink.  They all feed off of him.  He scores inside and outside and sets up everyone else. 

When Texas beat UCLA earlier in the season they played a lot of zone to neutralize Love and force the other Bruins to beat them.  It will be interesting to see what Memphis will do because they don’t play a lot of zone defense.  Love will have to put the team on his back in order for them to get to the final.

The only team that can challenge North Carolina in my eyes is Memphis.  They are very deep, they are very active and quick on defense.  They have power inside with Joey Dorsey, Robert Dozier, and Shawn Taggart coming off the bench.  Their outside shooting is good enough, if not great. 

The length of their perimeter players makes it easier to shoot over the top of the defense, and they are excellent at slashing to the basket.  It makes them very difficult to score against as well. 

Derrick Rose is their stud point guard and the key to their team.  He has the ball in his hands most of the time and he makes everything work.  Rose beats everyone up the floor on the break, and knows when to slow it down and get the half-court offense going.

Not only does Rose run the offense, at times he becomes the offense.  He has a better than average jump shot, and when he goes to the hoop he has the strength and jumping ability to finish with no problem. 

Their is no end to the talent that Rose has.  He showed it off against Texas with a break-away double pump backwards dunk.  D.J. Augustin looked ordinary against the long Memphis defenders and it was obvious who the best point guard was on the floor.

Memphis handled Texas as if they weren’t in their league, and they embarrassed a pretty good Michigan State team previously by posting a 50-20 halftime score.

I don’t thinK Memphis will have too much of a problem with UCLA.  I see them winning and playing North Carolina in the final, which is the game I have wanted to see since the tournament  began.

This couldn’t have worked out better if you planned it.  We still had our upsets and surprises, but we have all the 1 seeds duking it out for the championship.  Too bad it will never happen in college football.  Oh well, we can dream can’t we?