2006 Final Four Tournament Preview
NCAA FINAL FOUR MATCH-UPS:
LSU TIGERS VS UCLA BRUINS
LSU TIGERS: LSU and Texas played each other tough, with each team knocking in 26 points in each half. Defense was the word of the day but in overtime it was one “D,” the Tigers’, that held strong. Throughout the game, Texas out rebounded the Tigers (45-36) but the Tigers beat them in shooting from the court and from the foul line. Although the Longhorns shot 72% from the charity line, while LSU hit 68%, it was the Tigers that won that battle, notching 11 points to their opponent’s 8. The Tigers only sent Texas to the foul line 11 times, while they stepped up for 16 shots. LSU was more disciplined in defending and it paid off for them. In the overtime, it was the LSU team stepping up, with just about every guy on the court hitting for two, three, or from the foul line. The last seven points by LSU were all made from the foul line, where they went 7 for 9. That was the game, with LSU winning by 10, 70-60.
(LSU NEEDS TO: This team was served well by its two young starting forwards-- sophomore Glen Davis, who had 26 points and 9 rebounds and freshman Tyrus Thomas, who threw in 21 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Strong on both ends of the court, these guys will be invaluable against a UCLA team that doesn’t give up. Fouling judiciously, taking it inside to garner the foul, and banging the boards will certainly give this team from Louisiana an advantage against the Bruins. The Tigers could do better rebounding on offense, giving themselves another shot or two.
UCLA BRUINS: The UCLA Bruins managed to miss fewer shots than the LSU Tigers, and as a result, won this game 50-45. The Bruins shot 34% from the floor, while their opponents hit 31% of their shots. One reason for the “cold” shooting was the stingy, tenacious defense both teams mounted. Scoring inside was difficult on both ends of the court and threes were not dropping for either team. The big difference in this game was the foul line. In their last contest, UCLA sent Gonzaga to the line 26 times. They corrected this tendency, giving Memphis only 15 free throws. The Tigers earned 9 points at the penalty line, but the Bruins converted 20 of 39 chances. There’s the game margin and more. For the Bruins, 7-foot senior center Ryan Hollins played a solid game with 9 rebounds and 14 points. Sophomore guard Arron Afflalo controlled the play for the Bruins, while pumping in a team-high 15 points.
(UCLA NEEDS TO: The Bruins were coming off a gut-check win against a formidable Gonzaga team and were certainly up to the task of playing number one seed Memphis nose to nose. As they did in their latest game, the Bruins want to keep LSU off the foul line. Although Hollins played a good game, the Bruins should be concerned that two Memphis freshman, guard/forward Shawne Williams and forward Robert Dozier, out rebounded him 16-9. LSU is going to be unrelenting inside and it would be helpful if Hollins could step it up. It’s difficult to say if he’s capable of doing that. This should be a slug fest and a low scoring game.)
GEORGE MASON PATRIOTS VS FLORIDA GATORS
GEORGE MASON PATRIOTS: In the overtime, Connecticut couldn’t hit threes and George Mason was inconsistent from the free throw line. The result was the Patriots outlasted the Huskies by a score of 86 to 84. Connecticut seemed to be in control of the game at the half, leading by nine points. But George Mason is a team that doesn’t care much about who’s in the lead at the half, or what their opponent’s seed might be, or whether they’re favored or not. They simply play the game one play, pass, shot at a time, and with patience and quiet confidence, they mount comebacks, hold onto leads, and make the big plays. This young, inexperienced team has shown a lot of poise and certainly seems ready and looking forward to the next step. Against the Huskies, sophomore forward Will Thomas had a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while each member of the starting five hit for double digits. This team plays like a team and that has certainly benefitted them throughout the tournament. In this game, their field goal and three-point percentages were both at 50, much better than the Huskie’s. They played Connecticut pretty much even across all categories, but down the stretch made fewer mistakes and more shots. Near the end of regulation they seemed to have it wrapped up, but the Huskies used their experience and with less than five seconds left went the length of the court to tie it and send the game into overtime. Another team might have let that rattle them, but the Patriots seemed to take it all in and simply go for it in the overtime.
(GEORGE MASON NEEDS TO: Don’t forget what got you here. Solid team play, an ability to adjust to opponents during the game, and mature choices have all been part of this club’s winning combination. Sharing scoring opportunities has helped weaken opponent defenses, while going head to head inside has also helped wear down the other team. In their latest contest, they had fine shooting percentages all around, and they’ll need to keep those numbers up as they go against a very strong Florida defense. If George Mason continues to play their game, they will continue to play in the tournament.
FLORIDA GATORS: The Gators met one of the most disciplined teams in the tournament, the Villanova Wildcats. Although Florida turned the play over about 2 1/2 times more than Nova, the Gators were helped by the fact that they shot 40% from the field. That doesn’t sound great, unless you consider that Villanova hit only 24% of their shots. Along with also shooting better from the foul line and the three point area, the Gators snagged more rebounds than their opponents, 49-36. The sophomore Gators were led by Joakin Noah, with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks. Al Horford put in 12 points and swiped 15 rebounds, while point guard Taurean Green was good for 19 points. Florida controlled most of the game and was helped by a Nova team that suddenly went cold from the field. Still, it was Florida’s inside play and their willingness to bang the boards that helped make the difference.
(FLORIDA NEEDS TO: They must shoot much better than 40% and continue to hammer the inside game, especially on the boards. The Gators are a young, inexperienced team about to meet another young, inexperienced team. They must show maturity, patience, and drive. Using their muscle, as they have throughout the tournament, will serve them well in their next contest. This should be a heel to heel, nose to nose battle. Whoever blinks the most loses.)
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