Saturday, March 25, 2006

Memphis vs. UCLA Preview

#1 vs. #2. Even with all of the upsets and tight games, the Oakland region has ended up the way it should have--with the two best teams playing each other with a berth in the Final Four on the line.

Memphis, the #1 seed, has been the most impressive team in the NCAA Tournament thus far. They have not really been pushed in any game yet, beating Oral Roberts, Bucknell, and Bradley by 16 points each. The Tigers played ORU's up-tempo game in the first round; Bucknell's slow-down game in the second round; and Bradley's attempt to run with Memphis/their attempt to slow the game down in the Sweet Sixteen. In other words, they have played against every style in the NCAA tournament, and have passed each test with flying colors.

UCLA came into the region as the most popular Final Four pick (along with Kansas), and has not disappointed those who chose the Bruins. They opened the Tournament with an easy win over Belmont, followed by a very competitive win against Alabama. However, against the Tide, they seemed like they were in control the entire contest. Against the Sweet Sixteen, UCLA made the type of comeback that can propel a team to a National Championship. After being down by 19 at one point, the Bruins came all the way back to take the lead on Luc Richard Mbah a Mboute's lay-up in the waning seconds. Don't think that UCLA is just happy to be here, though--they fully expect to get to Indianapolis.

Memphis was near the top of the rankings throughout the season, and for good reason. They are one of the most athletic and talented teams around, and can not be rivaled in terms of their length and depth. The Tigers love to pressure the ball and get points in transition. When their run-and-gun game is going, they are very difficult to defend. Rodney Carney is a freak in terms of athleticism and is one of the best players in the country. Darius Washington is a solid point guard who is a very good playmaker. Shawne Williams is an inside-outside player who is one of the top freshmen in the land. Antonio Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts provide scoring and defense on the wings. The only thing this team lacks is a dominant low-post player and experience. However, if Joey Dorsey is consistent on the glass and defensively, the Tigers will be fine. Robert Dozier is an underrated inside player, while Andre Allen has played very well off the bench in the backcourt.

UCLA has been one of the top 15 teams in the country the whole year, and are playing excellent basketball lately, having won 15 of their past 17 games. They are one of the most efficient teams in the nation shooting the ball and also have one of the better scoring defenses in the country. Aaron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar form one of the best backcourts in the country. Afflalo is an excellent defender and might be even more dangerous on offense, while Farmar is an outstanding passer at the point. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has been the best freshman in the conference, and is a very good rebounder. Darren Collison is a developing scorer at the guard position, and Cedric Bozeman is a versatile wing who can do many things. Inside, Ryan Hollins leads the way but Alfred Aboya also contributes. Neither is a big-time producer in either scoring and rebounding, but they provide a big body and some solid defense.

This game is a rematch of a Preseason NIT semi-final. Memphis won that game by eight points in a contest they controlled from beginning to end. Don't expect the same type of game. The second battle between the two teams should be a classic. UCLA has better guards than Memphis, but they don’t have an answer for the forward duo of Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams. Neither team is overly dominant down low, but Memphis would get the edge in the post. Williams vs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would be a great match-up of two of the top freshmen in the country. I think that Carney and Douglas-Roberts, with their long arms and athleticism, would be able to slow down Afflalo. If Carney is able to get his game going against Afflalo, Memphis will get the win. If Farmar and Afflalo control the game right away and don’t allow the Tigers to run, UCLA will win. My money is on Memphis in what could be a last-possession game.

Prediction: Memphis 73, UCLA 71

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  2. Jeff, you could'nt pick your nose, after the LSU game you can now go for the trifecta!

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