This is probably somewhat of a depressing Saturday for some Longhorn fans. Texas was just 40 minutes away from a trip to San Antonio and the Final Four, but ran into a Memphis buzzsaw in Houston last weekend. Even without the 'Horns, tonight's games should be thoroughly entertaining as all four top seeds survived to reach the Final Four for the first time in history.
(1) Memphis (37-1, 16-0) vs. (1) UCLA (35-3, 16-2) 5:07 p.m CBS
It seems like most media pundits have fallen head over heels in love with the Tigers after they dismantled both Michigan State and Texas last weekend. I, too, was very impressed with the Tigers in Houston. However, I expect UCLA's physical defense and slow-tempo style to propel the Bruins to the title game. If I'm right, you will see UCLA defend the dribble-drive effectively with taller, stronger, and quicker perimeter players than the Longhorns possesd. If I'm wrong, Memphis will dictate the tempo of the game and UCLA will be in a world of hurt trying to come from behind in a full-court game against a team as efficient as Memphis.
(1) Kansas (35-3, 13-3) vs. (1) North Carolina (36-2, 14-2) 7:47 p.m CBS
Much like in the first semifinal, tempo will matter in this one. Both teams love to push the action, but I think Kansas is more efficient than North Carolina is in the half court. I won't be surprised at all if Bill Self elects to slow the tempo some this evening. The Jayhawks can score inside and out in the half-court, whereas North Carolina is much more dependent of fast break points. In a half-court game, North Carolina will also be attempting to score against one of the nation's top ranked defenses. Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson, Brandon Rush, and Sharron Collins combine to form the best set of defensive guards in the country. Also, the physical bodies of Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson should be able to frustrate Hansbrough, ala Dexter Pittman on Brook Lopez. As long as Kaun and Jackson don't foul and let Hansbrough live at the free throw line, I think the Kansas defense will send Bill Self and the Jayhawks to the title game.
One last painful note, the four teams still alive for a national title have a combined nine losses. Two of those nine losses came to the Texas Longhorns. We were one of the very best teams in the country this year and unfortunately came up just short.