Tar Heels Headed to the NBA Draft

The first round of the NBA Playoffs have been extremely entertaining so far.  But I want to take a break and look back at some of the North Carolina Tar Heels that have declared for the NBA draft this year.  

North Carolina Tar Heels

Ty Lawson 

Ty Lawson played phenomenally to start off the season.  He had the Tar Heels’ high octane offense moving fluidly.  He got everybody involved in the game and had cutdown on his careless turnovers.  Lawson’s strength has always been his incredible speed.  He was like a blur running past opponents so many times during the year taking the ball coast to coast.  However, after suffering from the ankle injury heard around the world, he never got back to full strength.  Lawson became more tenative, he lost his explosion, and could not get the team clicking together again.  There were flashes of promise when he would penetrate and finish strong at the hole, but it was not the same explosion.  In addition, he was a complete no-show in the ebarassing loss to the Jayhawks in the Final Four.  But now, Lawson has entered his name for the draft but will not be hiring an agent.  I really believe Lawson could use an extra year in college to help his game, especially after the injury.  This year’s draft is stacked with point guards ranging from, OJ Mayo, Jarryd Bayless, to DJ Augustin.  Lawson is still not at the same tier of play as the players mentioned.  His other problem is his lack of size.  When was the last time an under 6 foot point guard survived in the NBA?  If Lawson stays at UNC for one more year, he will be able to help his draft stock immensley, unless he gets injured again.

I predict he will be drafted late in the first round or early secound round. 

Wayne Ellington

Ellington can straight up shoot lights out.  He has one of the smoothest jumpers in the game today.  He has improved his game dramatically from his freshman year to his sophomore year.  He has expanded his sweet three point jumpshot to more of a slashing offensive game too.  Anyone that watched his assasination of Clemson three times this year, knows the scoring outbursts he is capable of.  However, Ellington has not shown that he can be consistent.  While he was the secound leading scorer for the Tar Heels, he was a no show in the NCAA Tournament.  His three point shot was not falling in the tournament and he struggled.  But the main thing is Ellington has so much upside.  If he can bulk up in size, he will be a decent NBA two guard.  He has the potential to be more of a Paul Pierce player than a Rip Hamilton player.  Staying in college, could help Ellington expand his offensive game even more and allow him to work on his defense which is non-existent.

I predict, Ellington will be a drafted between the 18-24 picks in the first round.  

Danny Green (Amazing Dunk)

Green was the best sixth man in the country this year and even had some dance moves before the home games for fans to get hyped about.  Green was a solid contributor this year for the Tar Heels  He was instant offense for them off of the bench, and played quality defense by blocking shots at a ridiculous pace for a player of his size (6’6″).  Green too has declared for the draft without hiring an agent.  I don’t think Green will have a chance in this year’s draft.  He does not have the up-side that Marvin Williams had when he was drafted as the number 2 pick while coming off the bench for the Tar Heels in 2005.  Green would be the starting 2-guard next year if Ellington remains in the draft and would have a chance to be a secondary scoring option after Tyler Hansbrough.  If Green chooses to remain in the draft, it would be a bad call.  It would be a stretch to say he is drafted late in the 2nd round.  While there have been stellar players picked in the 2nd round such as Gilbert Arenas, Manu Ginobilli and Carlos Boozer; Danny Green is no where as good as those players. 

I predict, Green will not be drafted and if he does it will be in the late secound round.  

Tyler Hansbrough

Tyler Hansbrough returns back to the Chapel Hill in hopes of winning that elusive National Championship.  He will continue to shatter numerous UNC and ACC records on his way to winning his second National Player of the Year Award.  I could keep on going about the guy, but let’s save it for next year when he’s forced to leave college.

 

Kidd and Shaq: Were They Worth It?

After 5 games each, the Suns and the Mavs have both been given the boot from the first round of the Playoffs.  It’s really ironic that both teams made blockbuster trades during the trade deadline and it has backlashed against them.  Now they have both stumbled into the offseason.  

Jason Kidd was a whiner who gave up on the Nets even while they still had a realistic chance to make it to the playoffs in the weak east.  He drove Byron Scott out of New Jersey and made the Nets brass decide between him or Scott.  Then he feuded with Lawrence Frank and cried his way out of the swamp in NJ.  He was supposed to be the missing link for the Mavs and Mark Cuban was willing to gamble and take on the title as the team with the highest payroll.  But Kidd never brought his magic with him to the Mavericks.  Now, less than 24 hours after the game 5 loss to the Hornets, his newest coach is gone too.  Does Avery Johnson deserve the blame for the loss.  Sure, every coach gets blamed for not winning a championship.  But, I really believe that Cuban and the Mavericks management opted to keep players such as Kidd happy rather than Johnson.  Granted Johnson was going to get fired anyways after three disappointing playoff appearences; however,  I believe a large reason for his firing was because of Kidd’s contract on the payroll and his lack of defensive presence on the court.  If the Mavs did not trade for Kidd, they would have still had Devin Harris and Diop.  While they are not superstars, they are young players that knew how to play their specific roles on the team.  Harris would not have been able to stop Chris Paul either, but atleast he would have been able to stay in front of Paul unlike Kidd’s creaky knees.  Diop, one of the most unpolished offensive players in the league who makes Shawn Bradley look like Tim Duncan in the post would also have had an impact. His athleticism would have kept Tyson Chandler off of the boards and prevented the Hornets from getting so many offensive rebounds.  Jason Kidd couldn’t fulfill the Mav’s wishes when they agreed to take on his huge contract and now he has indirectly caused another coach to be fired.  Byron Scott was probably so glad that Kidd was traded to the Mavs, because Chris Paul has allowed him to enjoy sweet revenge against Kidd.

On the flip side, the most dominant big man to play the game in this generation, Shaquille O’Neal gave up on the Heat early in the season.  When Wade went down early in the season, Shaq refused to pick up the slack to carry the team until Wade recovered.  Sure, he’s older and fatter now, but the effort was never there.  Like Kidd, he cried and whined his way out his former sinking team.  Shaq used his charismatic personality to win over the Phoenix fans even though they did not have a spectacular record after Shaq’s arrival.  But now after the Suns’ third loss in the playoffs to the Spurs in four years, it now looks like Mike D’Antoni is going to get the axe.  Ever since, Steve Kerr took over the Suns VP job, it has been clear that him and D’Antoni don’t see eye to eye.  D’Antoni has refused to preach defense, while Kerr has brought in Shaq for defensive purposes.  After the 5 game thrashing the Spurs have laid on the Suns, its clear that Shaq is simply too old and overweight now.  He cannot play defense and has no lift in his game.  The loss of Shawn Marion was clearly evident as the Suns had no one to match Tony Parker’s speed.  Tim Duncan simply destroyed Shaq in the post time after time.  Furthermore, the biggest downfall has been because of Shaq’s free-throws.  When you get paid twenty million dollars a year, you should be able to make 75% of your free throws.  Free throws are a learned skill.  It is not something you are inately born with, but something that takes practice and dedication to learn.  However, being able to dunk over 7’6″ players is an innate ability that does not require skill, but talent. But Shaq does not have that discipline to work on his free throws and that has always been the knock on his game.  He has been able to mask it in the past, because of his dominant presence in the post.  However, during the Spurs series, Shaq’s free throws cost them the series.  For example, in Game 5, Shaq alone took 20 free throws and  missed 11 of them.  That’s just pathetic and unbelievable for a player of Shaq’s NBA status.  If he had made more free throws, the Suns would have won the game, and some of the previous games might have been closer.  Shaq has been literally a big baby throughout his career.  He conflicted with Penny Hardaway in Orlando, the never ending feud with Kobe and then the cheap shots he took at Pat Riley after he reached the desert.  One can only wait to hear what he has to say about Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash after this loss.

Jason Kidd and Shaquille O’Neal, two of the superstars of our day have just demonstrated that the grass is not always greener on the other side.  They both bailed out when their former teams were struggling in hopes of joining new teams to win a championship.  I guess karma does catch up to you eventually!

Magoo Heads to Charlotte

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Magoo heads to Charlotte.  Larry Brown is a great coach and a genius with the X’s and O’s.  I used to like Larry Brown as the Carolina alumni, Pistons coach and Sixers coach.  But after the Knicks fiasco, I really don’t see Brown as the coach for the Bobcats.  As the coach of the Pistons, Brown had a well established veteran team assembled.  As the Sixers coach, Brown had Allen Iverson and was only able to reach the Finals because Iverson literally carried the team on his back.  But when Brown got to Gotham, he was supposed to mesh a bunch of young players together and restructure a team to prominence.  Clearly he failed. He was unable to get through to the young players and constantly conflicted with the players.  I dont’t think Brown is the right coach for the young Bobcats.  Brown is a good coach, but not a great teacher.  The Bobcats, need leadership and a teacher at the bench.  And Brown does not fulfill these criterias for Charlotte.  

I can see Larry Brown as the head coach of the Boston Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs, but not a young team.  I actually consider Brown the Rasheed Wallace of coaches.  He’s an amazing coach, but he brings so much drama to the bench like Rasheed.  He takes the focus away from the team from his antics and has a history of bailing on teams when times get tough.  

I could be completely wrong, but from Brown’s disaster in New York, he’s not the coach for a promising and young team as the Charlotte Bobcats.  Let’s hope he doesn’t stunt the growth of Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor and Gerald Wallace.  

Mr. Magoo – You’ve destroyed my favorite team, the Knicks….don’t destroy my other team too.

 

Surprise: No Sweeping Yet

The first round of the NBA Playoffs have been full of surprises.  Unexpected teams have shown flashes of brilliance and relentless effort while some of the big guns have shown more vulnerability than ever before.  The disappearing acts being performed by the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks continue to highlight the playoffs this year.

The Suns will most likely being headed home after being down 1-3 to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.  The play of the Suns has been more of an embarrassment than a disappointment.  While Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire have been orchestrating the Suns offense so fluidly, once again its the lack of a bench and the porous defense that continues to defeat the Suns.  The addition of Shaq has clearly not paid dividends for the Suns as Tim Duncan is having his way in the series.  Also, the loss of Shawn Marion’s ability to defend multiple positions is also missing.  Tony Parker is driving to the hole at will and making jump shot after jump shot because no one on the Suns can keep up with him.  Nash has always been a liability on defense.  Grant Hill has been a walking corpse for many years now and makes the job so much easier for Bruce Bowen on defense.  Simply put, the Spurs may be a older team this year and have had a number of doubters all year long, but they prove to be a smart team that can execute when they need to.  The Suns showed their offensive potency in Game 4’s demolition of the Suns, but to win 3 straight games against the Spurs is just asking too much.  Ginobilli, Duncan, and Parker are the best trio in the league .  (Even better than Garnett, Pierce, and Allen as a team, but not talent-wise)

Even more disappointing has been the performance of the Dallas Mavericks.  Dirk Nowitzki just doesn’t have his head in the game.  Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse are shooting enough bricks to build a new stadium for Mark Cuban and the Mavs.  Josh Howard enjoys smoking marijuana during the off season (why would you admit to that…idiot).  The biggest issue for the Mavs, is the inefficieny of Jason Kidd, their blockbuster trade deadline aquisition.  They lost a heartbreaker to the hands of Dwayne Wade two years ago and blew off last year’s first round loss as a fluke.  They have no excuses this year.  Kidd was supposed to be the missing link to lead the Mavs to the championship.    They traded away the future of the team in Devin Harris, Diop and draft picks, only to get burned over and over by Chris Paul and his entourage.  Kidd is being exploited play after play by the younger Paul, while David West and Tyson Chandler are playing in the post as if it was recess time instead of a playoff game.  If the Mavs can put together three straight wins agaisnt the Hornets, Avery Johnson might still keep his job.  If not, you can see Johnson at the unemployment office in the off season.  (D’Antoni might join him too if the Suns lose one more game)

 

The Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia Sixers have been the teams that have surprised everyone so far.  They both squeaked into the last two spots of the playoffs and were both expected to be swept.  Yet, the Sixers have been a solid team handing the second ranked Pistons two losses and have the series knotted at 2-2.  They have been very impressive for a young team that was expected to finish last in the Atlantic Division.  While the Hawks got spanked in games 1 and 2 in Boston by an average of 21 points, they showed why they are such an entertaining team in game 3.  All you need to know is Josh Smith has serious hops.  The guy definitely has springs in his legs.  His 27 point, 9 rebound performance and the help of Al Horford’s dominant contribution in the post (and taunting of paul Pierce) showed a promising future for the baby Hawks.  While, I don’t see Hawks or the Sixers winning their series’, both teams have provided fans with enteraining games and have had a chance to display some of their great young talents.  

It has been less than two weeks since the playoffs have began, but the excitement is high now.  Hopefully, the second round will promise us the same excitement.

Extra:  No multimillion dollar NBA facility should have shot clock malfunctions like the Hawks did in Phillips Arena.  The PA announcer was counting the shot clock down at 15, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 seconds through out the 3rd quarter.  It must have been quite embarrassing for the owners/managers of Phillips Arena.

Beasley gone

As expected, Michael Beasley, Kansas State’s sensational phenom will be announcing his choice to enter the NBA Draft after one year of college basketball.

 

Link

MVP Rising From The West: CP3 vs Kobe

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This has to be the best race for the Western playoffs in years.  9 teams fighting for 8 spots.  Well, 7 teams have locked up a playoff spot and two are fighting for the 8th seed.  Also, the 2008 MVP will also be coming from one of the top two teams in the West.

 

 Chris Paul and the Hornets are having a surprising and amazing season.  They currently own the number one seed in the West and manage to play a great game of team basketball (very similar to the college game).  Chris Paul has stepped up his game to the level he is the best point guard in the game, even ahead of Jason Kidd and two time MVP Steve Nash.  Kidd has yet to demonstrate his talents that have earned him a reputable name, as a Maverick.  The difference between Nash and Paul, is that Paul is a prolific scorer and plays smart defense.  The Hornets have a solid nucleus of Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakavic to lead them deep into the playoffs this year.  In my opinion, Chris Paul deserves the MVP for being the team conductor on the number one squad in the Western conference.  

 

Standing only a 1/2 game behind the Hornets are Kobe and Lakers.  The Lakers have had a lot going for them this year, especially after Kobe’s erratic off season.  The biggest thing has been the help they have recieved in the middle.  The emergence of Andrew Bynum, the addition of Pau Gasol and the loss of Kwame Brown (now he just needs to leave the NBA and stop embarrassing every team he’s on).  While the Lakers have been surging, Kobe has been playing splendidly.  Has he been playing better than he has in the previous two seasons?  Not statistically.  But, he has been a better teammate with the inclusion of Gasol.  However he has been better in the past two years than this year when considering his overall performance as an individual player.  So far, Kobe still remains on this list:  Greatest Players to Never Have Won the MVP.

 

Usually, if there are two players competeing for the MVP, its often given to the player whose team has the better record.  In this case, both the Hornets and Lakers are fighting for the number one seed.  This will be a tricky season for deciding the MVP and we will here gripes from “media analysts” about both sides.  Chris Paul has been a better all around player deserves the nod for this year’s MVP over Bryant.  Even in the few games where Gasol went down, Kobe struggled to carry the Lakers on his own (not that he couldn’t have by dropping 81 on some poor team).  But CP3 has been more valuable to his team and is one of the best playmakers in the league and should win the MVP this year.  

 

My guess is Kobe will win the MVP because he has yet to win the MVP and he is able to get his team to the top of the Western Conference again.  If this does happens, it will show us again that the NBA is just horrible at determining the MVP year in and year out (and how difficult it is these days with so many budding stars).    

 

(Please don’t let Kevin Garnett be the MVP.  He has two other All-Stars and future Hall of Famers surrounding him and his numbers have taken a dip since his days in Minny.  Anybody that mentions Garnett as an MVP candidate is an idiot)

Final Four -> Four Coaches -> Four Questions

Now that the college basketball season has officially ended, questions and rumors begin swirling endlessly.  Here are four questions regarding the four coaches from the Final Four :

Roy Williams – North Carolina

      What happened to his team???  Should people bash him for wearing that Jayhawk sticker?

The Tar Heels just came out flat against the Jayhawks and played one of the most embarrassing games.  It was just one of those days and the only black mark on a spectacular season.  The main question however is regarding Roy William”s choice of wearing a Kansas sticker during the championship game, two nights after the Jayhwaks thrashed his team.  If you are a Carolina fan or if you know something about Roy Williams’ personality, you had to love what he did.  The man  respects Kansas after 15 years there.  He did the same thing in 1993 when he pulled for UNC in the championship after UNC beat his Kansas team back then.  Basically, it was a very classy move and something UNC fans should not be surprised about.  However, I am curious about how his current players must have taken that gesture?

 

Ben Howland – UCLA

       Three straight Final Four losses.  A sign of greatness or a major weakness because he can’t get over the last hump?

        This was supposed to be the year.  The Bruins had the big man they lacked in their previous two runs.  Florida would definitley not be a problem this year since they were having their own party in the NIT.  Yet, Ben Howland just couldn’t get the charm to work on the third time either.  Howland is a remarkable coach from his days in Pitt and his recent tenure at UCLA, but I am not sure where the trouble is.  While this year’s team was a forimiddable group, they still struggled to get points up on the board and were a bit slower than previous teams.  Maybe, Howland needs a new group of guys to gel together or maybe his late game style of coaching needs to change.  With Kevin Love, Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook all potentially jumping ship early to the NBA, we’ll see if Ben Howland can change his luck next year.

 

John Calipari – Memphis

          Will he bolt for the Big League again?

          John Calipari has always had a different mindset in coaching than other teams.  He loves the dribble and drive and has brought two unlikely schools to the championship game in UMASS and Memphis.  He even had his brief fling with the NBA and his infamous stint as the head coach of the New Jersey Nets.  Isiah Thomas may possibly getting booted from the New York Knicks bench and Caliapri might have a chance to redeem his NBA reputation.  If new Knicks GM Donnie Walsh is ready to throw big bucks in an offer to Calipari, I see Calipari running the show at the Garden next year in attempt to fix Team Titanic.  

 

Bill Self – Kansas

        Will he take the money that Oklahoma State throws at him or does he want to enjoy the Jayhawk basketball tradition?

        This seems to be the biggest question since the Championship game.  Now, that Self has a title under his belt, he can demand even more money whether it be from the Jayhawks or any other team.  He says he wants “security” from the Jayhawks.  The way I see it, the more he wins, the Jayahawks will do everything to keep him.  Kansas has a history of being loyal and treating their head coaches well.  I don’t think that Self has anything to worry about from Kansas.  The question is whether the 6 million dollar signing bonus and 3 million dollars/year that Oklahoma State is willing to offer, will be enough to pull him back to his alma mater.  While Kansas may not be able to throw that kind of money around now, I am sure that they will be able to satisfy their coach in the long run.  I think Self should stay at Kansas and forego the few extra millions in hopes of winning more championships in a school with a rich basketball history and tradition.  But, hey we live in a time when money controls everything and people always follow the money and never the tradition.  If Ok. St. is serious about the offer, I see Self sitting at the Sooners bench next year.

Super Mario’s One Shining Moment

20 years later, Kansas does it again.  As expected, Memphis and Kansas gave college basketball fans a thrilling championship game.  Kansas cut down the nets to claim the 2008 NCAA Tournament crown after a thrilling finish in overtime.  Memphis had the chance to win the game in regulation, but missed free throws will continue to haunt Chris Douglas Roberts and the rest of the Tigers until the next season begins.  All season long, Memphis coach John Calipari has lashed back at the media arguing that free throws will not give his team any trouble and that they will be able to hit them in the clutch.  Seems like Calipari’s biting his tongue now as the Tigers went 1-5 from the charity line at the end of regulation.

 Nevertheless, the night and one shining moment belonged to Jayhawk Nation.  With a solid combination of an inside and outside game, Kansas demonstrated what it takes to win a championship.  Kansas flew under the radar for most of the season, while, UNC, UCLA and Memphis garnered all of the attention.  However, over the course of the season and the tournament, Kansas made its way to the top of NCAA basketball world again.  

While Mario Chalmer’s clutch three pointer with 2.1 seconds left will go down as one of the greatest shots in KU history, it was the stellar team play and the maturity demonstrated by the players.

Kansas will celebrate this championship for a long time because as of now their future is uncertain.  Brandon Rush has already declared for the NBA twice and I am certain he will declare again this year.  Collins and Chalmers have increased their draft stock after their impressive tournament run.  However, the best NBA prospect will be Darrell Arthur who is almost a lock to go in the middle of the first round.  He has the explosiveness and athleticism to be the next Antonio McDyess (before the 2…3…some number of knee surgeries)-like player.  Even if KU loses these 4 superb athletes, the biggest loss would be losing Coach Bill Self to Oklahoma State.  Let Mario Chalmers and the rest of Jayhawk nation celebrate the championship that has eluded them for twenty years for the time being, because they will have a long uncertain off season of personnel change.  

Final Four – Game 2: North Carolina vs Kansas

The first thing that the media and some Kansas fans need to realize is that this is not Roy Williams vs KU.  The matchup is North Carolina vs Kansas.  I am opting to not discuss the whole Roy Williams and Kansas issue, because that is five years old news and Kansas is now Bill Self’s team and Roy Williams is back home.  Kansas may be the first team in the tournament to provide the running Tar Heels with a challenge.  Yes, Louisville had the game tied in the middle of the second half, but most people that watched the game knew it wasn’t that close of a game at all.  Also, North Carolina may be the first elite team that Kansas faces in the tournament.  Kansas has had the easiest road so far to the Final Four in defeating teams seeded, 16th, 8th, 12th and 10th.  It’s hard to imagine that Davidson, the team that almost knocked the Jayhawks out with a last second three pointer was only ranked 10th.

 

North Carolina

North Carolina has simply been an offensive juggernaut in this tournament.  After destroying their first four teams by an average of 25 points, the Heels may possibly be tested against a strong Kansas team.  Tyler Hansbrough, the National Player of the Year and MOP of the East region  will dominate the paint as usual (he may even spread the floor again like he did against David Padgett and the Cardinals in the Elite Eight).  Ty Lawson is now fully recovered and has been blazing 

past opponents so far in this tournament to get easy buckets in transition and breaking down any press defense that teams have thrown at the Heels.  In addition, Carolina’s wing players have been solid so far too.  Ellington has been a sniper from long range while Marcus Ginyard has been sticking to the opposing team’s best wing players like Krazy glue.  In order for Carolina to advance to the championship game, they are going to need production from the 4 spot.  Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson were superb in the second round game against Arkansas going 13-13 from the field and helped relieve some pressure from Hansbrough by making teams pay for doubling down in the post.  The other key factor for UNC will be the play of Danny Green.  Green seems to be an extremely streaky shooter.  When his shots are dropping, his defensive intensity and blocked shots per game increases and he becomes the difference maker for North Carolina. However, if Green’s having one of those days where he can’t hit the broad side of a barn, you can expect the Heels to have a grind out game down to the last minute.  Although, Carolina’s defense has been questioned all year long, it has always been there for the Heels when they needed it (such as the Duke game, 3 Clemson games, Boston College game, Louisville game).  Carolina will have to be focused on the defensive end against an experienced Jayhawks team, but more importantly, they will need to make sure they dont turn the ball over against a Kansas backcourt that thrives on steals.

Kansas

Along with North Carolina, Kansas has been one of the hottest teams in the country.  They defeated a highly talented Texas team lead by D.J. Augustin in their conference tourney final and have breezed through the NCAA tournament until the Davidson game.  It’s true they were only one made three pointer away from losing, but they showed poise and mental focus to hold Stephen Curry in check for the final play of the game.  It will be interesting if the Davidson game will translate to mental focus or mental fatigue for the Jayhawks in the Final Four.  Kansas’ personnel  will be able to run alongside Carolina’s speedsters, since they run an efficient three guard offense in Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush (with Sherron Collins off the bench).  Kansas’ guards have thrived so far picking off lazy passes and making teams pay for their mistakes.  In addition, they have been deadly from beyond the arc, especially Rush.  Rush is trigger happy from the beyond the arc and you can expect him to let it fly from downtown in transition.  But you can’t blame the guy for taking so many three pointers, because he makes a high percentage of threes.  Camping in the low post are athletic big men, Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur.  Both players are solid and can defend the post well.  However, Arthur’s game has been off the entire tournament so far.  He has struggled against inferior opponents and seems to be lost in the offense while KU’s cruising through games.  Kansas will need to all of its players to be at their best in order to keep with the high octane offense of North Carolina. 

My Prediction:

Tyler Hansbrough and Ty lawson will be too much for the Jayhawks to handle.  Even though Kansas has three big bodies to throw at Hansbrough in Sasha Kaun, Arthur and Jackson, Psycho T will get his points regardless.  He thrives on initiating contact and finishing strong.  I have a feeling some of KU’s big men will be in early foul trouble which will allow Hansbrough to continue his domination.  It’s possible Lawson may be matched up well with the Jayhawks backcourt, but his speed his too much for any player to contain him for an entire 40 minutes.  The game will go down to the last minute, but the tested and motivated Tar Heels will pull through ending Bill Self and Kansas’s happy run. 

Final Four – Game 1:UCLA vs Memphis

 Freshman vs Freshman.  Love vs Rose.  UCLA vs Memphis.  Both of these teams have been quality teams for the past few few years in reaching the Elite Eight (Memphis) and the Final Four (UCLA) on a regular basis.  However, neither team has been able to get over the hill and win the big one.  UCLA had been lacking a significant post presence while Memphis had no one to take care of the ball to become a leader on the court.  Thanks to David Stern’s age limit rule, UCLA now has freshman center Kevin Love hauling UCLA to the Final Four for the third straight year while Memphis is following freshman point guard Derrick Rose their third Final Four in school history.  While, Rose and Love garner much of the well deserved attention for their respective teams, it will be up to the rest of the teams to pull through for either team to make it to Monday night’s game.  

UCLA 

UCLA is a well balanced team that has a solid backcourt of Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook.  Collision can slash to the hoop at will and can hit you with a dagger at any given time from deep beyond the three point land.  On the other hand, Westbrook has emerged as a top defender and probably also leads the country in most watched dunk videos.  His awe-inspiring athletic ability have NBA scouts drooling over him and will give Memphis’s Chris Douglas-Roberts a 

 rough night.  Josh Shipp, in my opinion is simply not going to have a significant impact in this game.  Matter of fact, he has been insignificant for the Bruins ever since he made that well documented illegal shot over the backboard against Stanford in the regular season.  It will be interesting to see how Kevin Love handles athletic big man Joey Dorsey of Memphis.  Love did make a few three pointers against Xavier and was a monster blocking shots against Western Kentucky.  He has a decent all around game, but he just looks so fat and slow.  Nevertheless he is a dominating presence in the post.  He has the capacity to make smart plays and good vision to kick it back out to an open man for a three which is a rare asset in many big men today.  As much as I hate to admit it, Love is deceptively good.  My biggest problem with UCLA is that they are not a dominating team.  They have had three games this year where the refs have either made a bad call or a no call and given the advantage to the Bruins in late game situations.  I don’t know what the NCAA regulations are regarding referees and bad calls, but somebody needs to look into it if the same team is getting calls over  and over during the same season. In addition, they have 5 out of the last 10 games by three points or less.  However, the important thing is that they are still winning.  

Memphis:

Memphis has reached the Final Four with the “us against the world” attitude, and hey, it works for them.  It is very true that Memphis is the one team that has received the least amount of respect out of the four number one seeds.  It is largely due to their anemic Conference USA schedule and pathetic free throw shooting percentage.  Nevertheless, freshman point guard Derrick Rose will attempt to lead this team to the  coveted national championship before he bolts for the big leagues.  Memphis is probably the most athletic team left in the tournament and they will attempt to capitalize on every mistake the opposition makes.  The key factor for Memphis will be whether Joey Dorsey will be a no show against Kevin Love as he was against Greg Oden last year.  Both UCLA and Memphis will bring contrasting styles of basketball to the  San Antonio.  Both teams have a good blend of freshman phenoms and veterans to lead their teams.  I believe that the game is going to come down to the wire and which ever team can covert free throws and run their offense in late game situations will pull this one out.

 My Prediction:  

Memphis will deny Ben Howland his third straight chance to advance to the championship game.  I believe UCLA is the better team, but Memphis’s athleticism will bother UCLA all night.  Nevertheless, the game will most likely go down to the last second, and Derrick Rose will lead Memphis to the championship game in a Carmelo Anthonyesque way.