A first look at the Final Four

The four top teams at the beginning of the season are also the quartet that's left standing. For the first time in the history of the NCAA tournament, the four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four.

UCLA vs. Memphis, 6:07 p.m. ET

The defensive-minded Bruins against the run-and-gun Memphis Tigers. The game will likely be determined by whichever team is able to control the tempo.

Ben Howland's club has been to the Final Four three times in a row, but is still searching for that elusive national title. John Calipari's club will have a chance at redemption after being knocked out by the Bruins two years ago in the Elite Eight.

This matchup also features two of the top freshmen in the country — UCLA big man Kevin Love and Memphis point guard Derrick Rose. Love has been dominant virtually all season, while Rose has put it all together and been the primary reason for the Tigers' run of late.

Love will be tested from a physical standpoint by Memphis big man Joey Dorsey, but the Tigers' athletic senior will need to be careful not to get into early foul trouble. Chris Douglas-Roberts was a freshman on the team that lost to UCLA, but he's a completely different player and has improved defensively and with his perimeter shooting.

However, the Bruins haven't just added Love. They also replaced Arron Afflalo with athletic guard Russell Westbrook, who is a terrific defender and can also get to the basket.

Who Wins: UCLA

Why: The Bruins aren't facing Florida, the team that's eliminated them the past two seasons. Ben Howland's team has the experience of getting to the Final Four two consecutive times — and Love won't be intimidated by the atmosphere. The Bruins defend and are improved from each of the last two seasons with the addition of a low-post scorer in Love who also controls the glass.

The matchup: Darrin Collison vs. Derrick Rose — Two of the nation's elite floor leaders. Both players set the tone and make their teams go. Collison has more speed, but Rose is athletic and has been the difference-maker in the NCAA tournament.

Under-the-radar player who may make an impact: Shawn Taggert — The Tigers' skilled forward could be bothersome to Love because of his length and ability to step out and make shots from the perimeter.

Stat line: Memphis may be one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country, but the Tigers made 30-of-36 from the line in the victory against Texas.

North Carolina vs. Kansas, 8:47 p.m. ET

Two teams that want to get out and run. Two of the most storied programs in the history of college basketball. Tar Heels coach Roy Williams against his former team.

Williams was unable to win a national title in his 15 seasons in Lawrence, while current Kansas coach Bill Self has quieted the critics with a Final Four berth in his fifth season.

This has all the makings of a track meet. The Tar Heels will try and run the ball down KU's throat with speedy floor leader Ty Lawson, while Kansas coach Bill Self will counter with a trio of guards — Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins.

The question is whether Kansas' big men can contain North Carolina big man Tyler Hansbrough, who was sensational in the Elite Eight against Louisville. Hansbrough is the front-runner for the National Player of the Year awards, but he'll go up against a much-improved Jayhawks frontline of Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun.

Who Wins: Kansas

Why: The pressure is now off the Jayhawks after they earned a berth to San Antonio, so now they won't have to play nearly as tight as they did against Davidson. This one comes down to defense — and Self's club has the personnel to handle the perimeter play of Lawson and Wayne Ellington.

The matchup: Mario Chalmers vs. Wayne Ellington — The two best perimeter shooters on the floor. Chalmers is also a terrific defensive player and could make life difficult for the sweet-shooting Ellington.

Under-the-radar player who may make an impact: Sherron Collins — He hasn't put it together all season, partially due to injuries, but he's got the toughness to impose his will on this game.

Stat line: 30 — The combined number of Final Four appearances between the two schools.

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. He can be reached at GoodmanonFOX@aol.com or check out his blog, Good 'N Plenty.

Up Next


Forums


0 Fans online
    Join The Conversation

    Tweets