UCLA: North Carolina
The NCAA College Cup kicks off Friday afternoon in Hoover, Ala., with No. 2 Creighton taking on surprise semifinalist Creighton in the 3 p.m. PST opener. No. 4 UCLA meets No. 3 North Carolina in the second game, at 5:30 p.m.
The title game is Sunday at 1 p.m. All three games will be shown live on ESPNU.
Here's a quick rundown on the final four:
- UCLA (18-4-1)
The Bruins lost in the quarterfinals the past two years, but a shift to a pure possession attack -- with style as or more important than results -- has taken UCLA to a different level. Junior forward Chandler Hoffman gets to finish a spectacular campaign, in which he's netted 18 goals to head a dynamic attack, at home: He's from Birmingham.
Pacific 12 MVP Kelyn Rowe adds attacking dimensions off the bench and Englishman Andy Rose provides a midfield foundation around which the Bruins revolve. And they might be at their strongest at the back, where goalkeeper Brian Rowe has posted eight straight shutouts -- keeping his sheet clean for 747 minutes, 40 seconds.
- NORTH CAROLINA (20-2-2)
The Tar Heels reached the title game three years ago and lost in the semifinals the past two years, and now first-year coach Carlos Samoano -- promoted when Elmar Bolowich moved to Creighton -- looks to take them to a second title 11 years after the first. They bring in a nine-game winning streak, with six of the victories, including the last two, by shutout.
The ability to do so will come in handy for the next four years, as the sophomore twins signed with UCLA Tuesday afternoon. The Wears will have to sit out next season after transferring from North Carolina, but will have three years of eligibility remaining.
"It's great for everybody," Howland said, "especially UCLA."
The twins might not be able to play next year, but the coach who needs bodies after losing three players to transfer last season is thrilled about landing both. Howland believes that the Wears will be able to get bigger and stronger during their down year.
Travis averaged 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game as a freshman at Chapel Hill. David posted similar numbers of 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds. Both averaged more than 10 minutes per game.
Howland expects them to hit the ground running when they regain eligibility.
"I'm just elated," Howland added. "They're fantastic players and they're just going to get better and better.
"Obviously we were disappointed when we didn't get them [out of high school], but I'm so thankful with the way it worked out."
Their signings leaves UCLA with one empty slot on its 13-player scholarship list. Howland added that he is still looking to fill the spot.
"I feel very good, blessed and happy because I've always thought the world of them -- both as players and people," Howland said.