Saturday, April 5, 2008
TIME: 7:47 p.m.
RECORDS: Kansas 35-3, North Carolina 36-2.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Kansas won the Midwest Regional as the No. 1 seed. The Jayhawks d. No. 16 Portland State 85-61, d. No. 8 UNLV 75-56, d. No. 12 Villanova 72-57 and d. No. 10 Davidson 59-57. North Carolina won the East Regional as the No. 1 seed. The Tar Heels d. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's 113-74, d. No. 9 Arkansas 108-77, d. No. 4 Washington State 68-47 and d. No. 3 Louisville 83-73.
THE BUZZ: OK, so Bill Self's "Final Four monkey' is off his back. Are he and his team just happy to be here, or can they be expected to continue to play with a sense of urgency? Actually, if North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough is knocking down 17- and 18-footers, no one is going to beat the Tar Heels. Kansas needs big men Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun to pound away - discreetly, of course - on Hansbrough, who is the only UNC big man to be feared offensively. Arthur can be foul-prone, and if he's on the bench for an extended period of time, the Jayhawks aren't going to win. North Carolina is the best offensive rebounding team in the nation, and the Jayhawks need to keep Hansbrough and his frontcourt mates from getting too many cheap putbacks. Kansas has the backcourt quickness - and depth - to keep Tar Heels point guard Ty Lawson from dominating. But the Jayhawks also need to worry about Wayne Ellington - and super-sub Danny Green - heating up from the outside. Speaking of heating up from the outside, KU needs Brandon Rush to be hot from beyond the arc. If the Jayhawks get Rush and Mario Chalmers bombing away, they're hard to beat. Chalmers and Russell Robinson also need to look to penetrate and to get to the line. While it has been solid in the tournament, UNC still can be lax at times on defense. Both teams are comfortable with a fast pace, and if either team looks to slow it down, it will be Kansas. Both teams are in the top 10 in free throws attempted. UNC leads the nation and averages 25 attempts per game; Kansas is at 22 per game.
THE LINE: North Carolina by 3.
TIME: 5:07 p.m.
RECORDS: Memphis 37-1, UCLA 35-3.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Memphis won the South Regional as the No. 1 seed; the Tigers d. No. 16 UT Arlington 87-63, d. No. 8 Mississippi State 77-74, d. No. 5 Michigan State 92-74 and d. No. 2 Texas 85-67. UCLA won the West Regional as the No. 1 seed; the Bruins d. No. 16 Mississippi Valley State 70-29, d. No. 9 Texas A&M 51-49, d. No. 12 Western Kentucky 88-78 and d. No. 3 Xavier 76-57.
THE BUZZ: Tempo will play a big role in this one. The Bruins have good athletes, but it's doubtful they want this one to get into the high 70s. UCLA would prefer a grind-it-out affair in the 60s. Memphis has been held to 70 or fewer points just eight times this season. UCLA big man Kevin Love is the Bruins' only consistent low-post scorer, and how he fares against Memphis' Joey Dorsey, Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart bears watching. Dorsey is foul-prone, and if he's on the bench for an extended period, Memphis could be in trouble because Love is bulkier and stronger than either Dozier or Taggart. UCLA needs Josh Shipp, who has struggled with his shot of late, to hit some shots from the perimeter. If Shipp is cold, Darren Collison becomes the Bruins' only other outside threat. Memphis freshman point guard Derrick Rose has been magnificent in the tournament. He's a big, physical point man with great speed. Rose is an excellent passer, can hit the three-pointer and get into the lane. Well, he usually can get into the lane. UCLA predicates its defense on keeping opponents from penetrating, so that also bears watching. If Memphis becomes strictly a jump-shooting team, it's in trouble. Also interesting will be the defensive assignment for UCLA guard Russell Westbrook, who can be a shutdown defender. Do the Bruins use him on Rose? If so, that means Collison will be at a 5-inch height disadvantage against either Chris Douglas-Roberts or Antonio Anderson.
THE LINE: Memphis by 2.