At long last, the pre-eminent college basketball event is finally upon us: the NCAA men's Final Four will be held this Saturday and Monday in Atlanta, GA. With the four remaining teams all #1 and #2 seeds, the weekend of games should be fascinating. For the first time in history, all four teams boast 30 or more wins. While this undoubtedly makes for one of the more enticing semifinals in recent memory, it also means that predicting a champion is more difficult than ever. Without further ado, here is one man's look inside the crystal ball.
#1 Ohio State vs. #2 Georgetown. The Buckeyes of Ohio State enter the game on a serious roll, having won their last 21 contests. Led by freshman sensation Greg Oden, the team features a strong mix of youth and experience. The big man will have his hands full on Saturday, as he will run into the Hoyas' equally imposing seven-footer, junior center Roy Hibbert. Both players have had difficulty staying out of foul trouble in the tournament thus far, and their ability to do so will be key. If Hibbert can stay on the court and neutralize Oden, the Hoyas underrated guards should be able to outlast the more ballyhooed Ohio State backcourt. Georgetown 82, Ohio State 79.
#1 Florida vs. #2 UCLA. In a rematch of last season's title game, Florida will look to take another step toward becoming the first repeat national champion since Duke in 1991 and 1992. The Gators return all five starters from their 2006 team, a group that includes four players likely to be first-round NBA draft picks. They have arguably the finest frontcourt in the country, led by juniors Joakim Noah and Al Horford. UCLA, meanwhile, enters the game looking for revenge, not to mention a 12th national title to add to their bountiful collection. A fast start would help the Bruins as Florida has shown a lack of first-half focus all season, and doing so against UCLA may prove deadly. If the game stays close into the second half, however, Florida's talented big men may be too much for UCLA to handle inside. Florida 73, UCLA 67.
A prospective title game showdown between Florida and Georgetown would be quite a spectacle. Although Georgetown seemingly has the athletes to match up with Florida, the Gators' experience cannot be understated. While Georgetown is as cohesive as they are hungry, the fact remains that they have yet to play on such a big stage. Florida has been here before, and will surely not be rattled by the pressure inherent to a national title bout. That alone should prove to be the difference in a tight contest between two evenly matched teams. Florida 78, Georgetown 73.