By Cory Mccartney
March 27, 2007
Arron Afflalo
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Who Made The Biggest Statement?
UCLA is back in the Final Four, thanks in large part to a slump-busting performance from Arron Afflalo (above). In the five games before Saturday's win over Kansas, the Pac-10 Player of the Year was 18-for-58 from the field, including a combined 5-of-22 in tournament wins over Indiana and Pitt. If not for his free throw shooting (16-of-17 in the victories) he wouldn't have sniffed double digits. Afflalo looked doomed to relive his big-game woes against the Jayhawks -- he had a combined 19 points in last year's Final Four games and a season-low three points in a Pac-10 tourney loss to Cal -- hitting just two of his first seven shot attempts but scored 15 of his 24 points in the second half to carry his Bruins past top-seeded Kansas. Of course, it couldn't have come at a better time for UCLA considering the stakes. But most importantly, when you stack it up against those previous big-game woes it means defending champion Florida will not only face a team that plays great defense (UCLA held opponents under 60 points on the season), but also one whose unquestionable leader has regained his touch -- and his confidence.
What In the World Happened To?
North Carolina. Up 10 with 7:19 left in regulation, the Tar Heels, who coming in hit 50.3 percent of their shots (third nationally), went Sahara dry for 5:38 until Tyler Hansbrough hit a layup with 1:41 to play. The brick-laying carried into overtime as UNC missed its first 12 shots. In all, North Carolina hit 1-of-23 field goals in a 15-minute span. Of course, that's not getting you to Atlanta. Just ask Roy Williams' boys, who are headed back to Chapel Hill after an 11-point lead evaporated into a 12-point loss to Georgetown. If you're UNC, it was all there: Hansbrough was in Psycho T form, leading all scorers with 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds; Brandan Wright followed up his big game against USC with 14 points and the Tar Heels outrebounded the Hoyas 41-37, including an astounding 20-10 edge on the offensive glass. But here's all that really matters and all that the UNC faithful will be dwelling on: Georgetown hit 57.6 percent of its shots (38 of 66), while UNC ends its season by connecting on 25 of 71 attempts (35.2 percent). The Tar Heels got away from what led them to 50 first-half points (attacking the basket) and it's the Hoyas who are Atlanta-bound.
On The Marquee For Next Round?
Take your pick in these grudge matches. On one end you've got last year's national-title game pairing of UCLA-Florida and on the other Ohio State-Georgetown, a second-round matchup from a year ago that the Hoyas won. I'm going with the Buckeyes vs. the Hoyas. Seriously, can you remember a more enticing big-man clash than Roy Hibbert vs. Greg Oden? The next time this happens it's going to be in an NBA arena. Of course, there's also each team's Mr. Clutch in Georgetown's Jeff Green and Ohio State's Ron Lewis, who have arguably have hit the two biggest shots of the tourney. There's also the experience-vs.-youth clash as Georgetown has seven upperclassmen, while the Buckeyes have seven underclassmen. The big question: who will destiny be smiling down on, because fate has been these teams' biggest weapon. Ohio State overcame a 20-point deficit against Tennessee and 11 vs. Xavier, while the Hoyas bounced back from 13 down vs. Vanderbilt and 11 against North Carolina.
Who Will Be Left Standing?
A familiar team is going to be cutting down the nets at the Georgia Dome. Florida is just too seasoned, too experienced and can beat opponents too many ways. In their first three tournament wins (Jackson State, Purdue and Butler) the Gators' frontcourt outscored the opposition 136-51, and on Sunday against Oregon it was Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green who did the most damage from behind the arc. Above all, the Gators' biggest asset is they don't look complacent. There's too much fire there for this team to fall short of becoming the first team to repeat since Duke in 1991 and '92. Nobody gets a team's best shot more so than the defending champions and Florida simply finds ways to win. Don't discount the Gators familiarity with playing in the Dome in that SEC tourney run; it's likely to serve them well in the cavernous confines. Whether you like Joakim Noah and the Gators or not, it's time we get ready to place this Florida team among the all-time greats.
Lee HumphreyG - Florida
Humphrey is now the most prolific three-pointer shooter in Florida history. He had 23 points with seven threes in the Elite Eight win over Oregon, giving him 280 treys for his career, surpassing Brett Nelson's Florida career record.
Ron LewisG - Ohio State
Lewis keeps this spot after two more mammoth performances in helping the Buckeyes reach the Final Four. He had 25 points in the win over Tennessee and added 22 against Memphis. He is averaging 21.8 points in the tournament.
Jeff GreenF - Georgetown
How did Green follow up his game-winning shot against Vanderbilt? By leading Georgetown to its first Final Four since 1985. Green had 22 points in the win over UNC and was named the East Regional's Most Outstanding Player.
"Yeah, I tried to call Michael. But he wasn't accepting any of my calls."
--Patrick Ewing Sr. after Georgetown beat UNC on Sunday. In 1982, Michael Jordan hit the game-winner with 17 seconds left as the Heels beat G'town to win the national title.
"I had seven turnovers. Seven [freaking] turnovers!"
--Kansas guard Mario Chalmers, whose season-high seven turnovers were among 21 by the No. 1-seed Jayhawks -- their most this season -- as they lost to UCLA in the Elite Eight.
"Joey did not try to fire this kid up. What he was saying was, he's one of the best in the country and I want to see what I can do against him, and it was blown up ... I feel bad that he played that poorly."
--Memphis coach John Calipari on Joey Dorsey, who called Ohio St.'s Greg Oden a "little man." Oden had 17 points and nine rebounds, while Dorsey had no points and three boards.
Kansas' Brandon Rush went 6-for-6 from the field against Southern Illinois, becoming the first player to make as many as six shots without a miss since Temple's Kevin Lyde in '99.
Memphis' Jeremy Hunt had 26 points off the bench against Ohio State, the biggest output in the tourney from a substitute since Michigan's Sean Higgins scored 31 points in 1989.
UCLA has held its first four opponents (Weber State, Indiana, Pitt and Kansas) to 55 points or less. The last team to pull that off was Villanova, in 1985, which went on to win the title.

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