March 24, 2006
It has already been a magical NCAA Tournament, and on Saturday we'll find out the first two teams that will go to Indianapolis for the Final Four. Will we see some more great finishes? Let's look at the two matchups.
TEXAS vs. LSU, ATLANTA REGION
Most people expected Duke to be in this game, but LSU's great athletes prevailed against the Blue Devils. Garrett Temple did an incredible defensive job against J.J. Redick. Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Tyrus Thomas came up big down the stretch.
Now the young and talented Tigers take on an experienced Texas squad. LaMarcus Aldridge was brilliant inside against West Virginia in a Sweet 16 Maalox Masher won on Kenton Paulino's 3-pointer. Aldridge and P.J. Tucker will be challenged by Davis and Thomas.
Daniel Gibson has to step up and have a big game. Will he be able to outscore Darrel Mitchell? That could be a key.
I think experience is another key factor. Texas has been to the Final Four, and the Longhorns will go again. Coach Rick Barnes has done a terrific job, and he also got productivity from his bench against West Virginia. A.J. Abrams and Mike Williams played solid minutes.
Texas moves on and punches a ticket to Indianapolis.
UCLA vs. MEMPHIS, OAKLAND REGION
Coach Ben Howland's team simply would not quit in its amazing comeback against Gonzaga. The Bruins scored the final 11 points and advanced to this showdown against coach John Calipari's talented, athletic Tigers.
It has been the Memphis Invitational so far. If you told Calipari before the season that he had to beat Oral Roberts, Bucknell and Bradley to get to the Elite Eight, he would have said "book it." Now comes a real test, although Memphis beat UCLA in the Preseason NIT earlier this season.
The Bruins have matured a lot since that game. So has Memphis. This should be a real battle, and the question is: How much does UCLA have left in the tank?
UCLA's guard tandem of Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo each had 15 against Gonzaga, and both made big plays late. Ryan Hollins gave Howland help up front. Since this game is on the West Coast, the fans will be a factor as they root for the Pac-10 squad.
Howland's defensive mind-set and the intensity of this challenge will lead to the Bruins moving on and making it to Indianapolis. This could be another game that goes down to the wire.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.