The Final Four is upon us at last, so let's enjoy the final weekend of college hoops for seven months and preview tonight's action.
The battle of the nation's two top collegiate centers is an interesting one, and though too often the national storyline is not the most interesting one of the game, in this case, I think it is. Ken Pomeroy has done an oustanding job of illustrating how much better Ohio State is when Greg Oden is on the floor. The numbers are so significant that it's impossible to explain away the difference any other way: Ohio State needs Oden on the floor to win.
Of course, the same is true of Georgetown and their center. The offense runs so much smoother when their own seven footer is out there that center foul trouble is probably the most important aspect of the game. The Hoyas' offense is ridiculously efficient when Hibbert is out there, both because of his ability to score in the paint, as well as his underrated ability to pass from the free throw line.
I'll be curious to see how effective Ohio State point guard Mike Conley is against a team like Georgetown. Few players have shown any ability to stay in front of Conley so far this season, so you wonder what Georgetown will do to try to contain his playmaking ability. The Hoyas have been vulnerable at times when they've allowed penetration into the paint, so if they're unable to keep Conley out on the perimeter, Ohio State may score enough to win.
Frankly, I don't see it. I think the Hoyas match up well with Ohio State, think they're more balanced offensively, and far better coached. The Hoyas can be defeated when they're not shooting the ball well, but barring a subpar performance from their guards, or severe foul trouble for Hibbert and Green, I think we'll see Georgetown in the finals Monday night.
The Line: Georgetown -1
PB's Pick: Georgetown 70 Ohio State 66
UCLA boasts the nation's best defense, but the Gators are the most balanced team in the tournament. They can score from the perimeter, can pound the interior, can score in transition, can work the halfcourt... there's simply not much they can't do.
On the flipside, despite their very impressive performance against Kansas, the Bruins remain an offensively challenged club. To beat Florida this evening, they'll need a truly monstrous evening from point guard Darren Collison, who may be the only matchup problem for the Gators. UCLA will need Collison to be a scorer tonight, because even as good as the Bruins are on defense, it's going to be difficult to keep Florida off the board. UCLA is able to wear down opponents with their suffocating defense, but Florida has too many different ways to score.
Can the Bruins keep up? I find it hard to imagine they will, but I've been underestimating the Bruins throughout March. If I'm a UCLA fan, I'm probably happy to see me pick against the Bruins one more time...
The Line: Florida -3.5
PB's Pick: Florida 69 UCLA 67