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The Fantastic Final Four

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If last year’s NCAA Tournament was the Year of the Upset, with George Mason making its magic carpet ride to the Final Four, this year is the Year of the Opposite. All four of the semifinalists of this year’s tourney are 1 and 2 seeds, proving how remarkable the 11th seeded George Mason’s run was. But the lack of a Cinderella team doesn’t make this Final Four any less exciting. All of the teams have a shot at cutting down the net on Monday Night. Only one will. Here are my picks for this year’s Final Four and Championship Game.

No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 1 Ohio State (Saturday, March 31, 6:07 p.m.)

Both of these teams have extremely talented centers, OSU’s Greg Oden and Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert. I give Hibbert, who has had a double-double in all of his five tournament games, the edge in this matchup. Ohio State had a relatively easy road to the Final Four, playing Central Connecticut, Xavier, Tennessee, and an overrated Memphis team. However, if it wasn’t for Ron Lewis’ desperate three with 2 seconds left against Xavier, which was made with more luck than skill, the Ohio State players would be (gasp!) in class right now.

Georgetown had a tough stretch of games where they had to play Boston College, Vanderbilt and North Carolina. They did almost lose to 6 seeded Vanderbilt, but the Commodores upset Number 1 Florida earlier this season. Georgetown crushed North Carolina in overtime, scoring 14 straight points.

My Pick: Georgetown 81, Ohio State 76

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 1 Florida (Saturday, March 31, 8:47 p.m.)

A rematch of last year’s championship game. Aaron Afflalo is the main scorer for UCLA, and (say this name five times fast) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute grabs most of their rebounds.

But the Florida starters play so well together that they don’t depend on one or two players. Taurean Green, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, and Lee Humphrey have averaged 11.6, 10.8, 12.6, 10.6 and 9.2 points per game in the tournament, respectively. Noah has pulled down 8.8 rebounds a game, and Horford is close behind with 7.8. And Humphrey, the only starter without a double digit scoring average, could change that this game. He scored 23 points, 21 of them off threes, in the Elite Eight against Kansas. UCLA is good, but they won’t be able to take this balanced team.

My Pick: Florida 79, UCLA 70

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Monday, April 2, 9:21 p.m.)

(Florida vs. Georgetown)

Roy Hibbert will keep the Hoyas in the game, but the Gator’s quintuple-threat offense and the smothering defense of Joakim Noah will make them repeat champions, the first since the ’91 and ’92 Duke teams, and only the second since John Wooden was still on the sidelines for UCLA.

My Pick: Florida 89, Georgetown 80

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About Josh Mandell