Monday, April 03, 2006

Sixty-two games down...

And one to go.

Only five college basketball teams get to head into the offseason with a winning streak intact. One of those is repeat NIT Champion South Carolina. Princeton (won last 2), Cornell (won last 2), and Harvard (won 1) also carry winning streaks into next season because the Ivy League does not have a conference tournament to pare down to just one team with a winning streak. The final team that will carry momentum into the offseason will be determined tonight at 8 PM ET (CBS) in the National Championship game.

To look at the defensive/offensive efficiency matchups, consult Lord Pomeroy. Read the case for Florida from CBS's Gregg Doyel. I'll make the case for UCLA here.

Florida probably has more overall talent than UCLA, but the margin is not that wide. UCLA has a very good offense (24th in Adj Off Eff), but Florida's is excellent (6th). Both have spectacular defenses, but UCLA's is a smidge better (3rd to UF's 8th) and has been downright nasty in the NCAA Tournament--especially in the second half. And that is why I like UCLA in this game. Ben Howland has had the magic touch when making halftime adjustments when needed.

UCLA's Opponents' FG% By 1st Half/2nd Half
Belmont: 35.7%/22.6% (Bad to worse)
Alabama: 61.1%/38.1% (Blistering to poor)
Gonzaga: 57.7%/37% (Hot to cold)
Memphis: 28%/39% (Dreadful to cool...a slight improvement)
LSU 30%/35% (Horrible in both halves)

The Bruins have only had two bad halves defensively and righted the ship in a big way against both Alabama and Gonzaga in the second half. They have played tremendous defense for 40 mins in their last two games. Florida needs a start like they had against GMU to build a cushion, because no team has managed 40% shooting against UCLA in the second half of any tournament game.

Granted, Florida is probably the best team UCLA has faced, but the Bruins have the size, length, and speed to give the Gators problems. I also like the Bruins toughness and the fact that they have been pushed more in this tournament than Florida has. Florida has not seen a defense like UCLA's to this point. Therefore...

Arbitrary Prediction: UCLA 63, Florida 61.

Enjoy the game, the culmination of another great season, and one shining moment.