Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Fresh Foursome

LSU is in the Final Four for the first time in 20 years. UCLA is back after an 11-year gap. Florida has gone six years between Final Fours (the last one for them, coincidentally, also came in Indianapolis). And then there's the newest face of all, George Mason.

This may be the most wide-open Final Four field in history. Four days of incredible basketball resulted in all four No. 1 seeds being eliminated, four of 12 games going to overtime and a few others going down to the wire, and the most improbable Final Four team of all emerging in those plucky Patriots.

Heroes of the Weekend: Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas, LSU. It's hard to call these guys twin towers because they are so physically different. But what a tandem Davis and Thomas were against Texas on Saturday. The pair combined for 47 points and 22 rebounds, shot 21-for-33 from the field and held Texas big man LaMarcus Aldridge to four points on 2-for-14 shooting. Were it not for Mason, LSU would be coming into Indy with the team of destiny label. Now they're simply going in as a terrific team.

Goats of the Weekend: Allan Ray and Mike Nardi, Villanova. After a solid first weekend, Ray couldn't find the hoop in Minneapolis, shooting 8-for-34. Nardi looked lost throughout the tournament, concluding it with a 2-for-11 performance Sunday against Florida. The Wildcats' 25 percent shooting was the worst percentage in a regional final since 1940.

Game of the Weekend: It has to be Mason-UConn. The Patriots' poise and execution were captivating to watch, and the Huskies actually played a good floor game after looking so sloppy against Washington. It was also a clean game; neither team was in the bonus in the second half until the closing minutes. Then there was Denham Brown's twisting reverse lay-up that tied it at the end of regulation and his potential game-winning 3-pointer that was a smidgen long.

Conference Roundup: The SEC has Florida and LSU. The Pac 10 has UCLA. And there's the Colonial Athletic Association, which can claim something the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC cannot -- a Final Four team. This is the eighth consecutive year that a conference has two teams in the Final Four.

Gut Reactions for the Final Four: Florida has to be the favorite against George Mason, which ought to please the Patriots just fine. Like Connecticut, the Gators are long and quick up front and love to go to the glass. The formula to beat them is exactly what Mason did Sunday -- establish inside position, don't give up cheap fouls, control the tempo and recognize double-teams to get high-percentage shots. Florida also will press more than UConn did, and they'll try to catch Mason in happy-to-be-here mode at the start of their semifinal. LSU-UCLA is a study in contrasts, with the Tigers' strength lying up front and the Bruins' in the backcourt. A low-scoring game is likely with the way the teams play. It will be interesting to see who Bruins defensive whiz Arron Afflalo draws as an assignment, since LSU's top offensive players -- Davis and Thomas -- aren't natural matchups for the 6-foot-5 guard. Of the two, LSU is playing better basketball, while the Bruins have gutted out their last three victories.



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