Bob Acton on the 2006 NCAA Championship ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
|YOU MAY HAVE TO FLIP A COIN TONIGHT!
by Bob Acton of Sportingbet USA – now SuperBook.com –
When I left you on Friday I had no idea that I would be committing the cardinal sin of gambling and that would be betting with my heart and not my knowledge. For several weeks now I have been touting the ability of Ben Howlands UCLA Bruins and their tremendous defensive ability. But like many fans I also was getting caught up on the sentimental story surrounding the LSU Tigers and the whole Hurricane Katrina saga.
Well needless to say I had a hard time wiping the egg away from my face after the Bruins dominated the Tigers Saturday night in a frightening display of defense and moved into the final against Florida tonight. Now I am faced with the daunting task of selecting a winner tonight.
I have been following UCLA ever since they spotted West Virginia a 20-point lead on January 21st but stormed back and almost caught the Mountaineers. Although they lost that afternoon you could see that this young team would be a force at the end of the year, once they got their injured lineup back intact.
Around the same time I got an opportunity to watch a Florida Gator game and was smitten with the passion and athletic ability of Joakim Noah. Having been a tennis fan in the 70s I had watched Joakims father Yannick display his awesome ability on the tennis courts and realize this story would grow during March Madness.
Well here we are mere hours away from the title game and this is going to be an intriguing matchup, with great defense, amazing athletic big men and some talented shooters from outside the arc. But make no mistake about it, while many people remember Michael Jordan for his leading ability, he was the greatest defensive player of all time at his position. While Noah for Florida and Farmar for UCLA can excite you on the offensive end, please watch their level of intensity on the defensive end.
The Numbers Dont Lie!
UCLA and Florida could establish the lowest average of points allowed by a champion in NCAA play in the 20 tournaments since the introduction of the three-point basket.
If the Bruins win and hold the Gators to 73 or fewer points, they will surpass the modern record-low average of 56.3 points allowed by the 2000 Michigan State Spartans. UCLA has allowed 53.9 points during the 12-game winning streak that has sent the Bruins to the championship game.
If the Gators win and hold UCLA to 54 or fewer points, they will establish the modern low. Florida’s 10-game winning streak has been built in part on the ability to hold opponents to an average of 59.6 points. In those 10 games, the Gators have held the opposition to 26.1% of their three-point attempts.
The UCLA defensive effort has attracted more attention because the pace frequently established by Howland’s third Bruins team has been a departure from the great teams of the past. The school’s 11 national championship teams scored an average ranging from 81.3 points in the 1973 season to 94.6 points the previous year.
The Bruins averaged 68.0 points in the 38 games that led them to the championship night. If the figure is the same after tonight, the scoring average would be the lowest for any NCAA champion since the 1982 North Carolina Tar Heels (66.7).
In the last 50 years, only one other NCAA champion has averaged fewer points: the 1959 California Golden Bears (63.9).
In the 19 tournaments since the introduction of the three-point shot, only one champion has averaged fewer than 75 points: the 2000 Michigan State Spartans (at 74.1).
Three of the five Bruins opponents in this tournament have scored 45 points or fewer. Nine times this season UCLA allowed fewer than 50 points.
Florida’s opponents have made 40.0% of their shots this season, the best job a Gators team has done under Donovan. The average of 63.7 points allowed is the second best in the Donovan era.
With one game to play, Florida’s 197 blocked shots this season are 29 more than the previous school record held by the 1987-88 team.
Joakim Noah and Al Horford have combined for 155 blocked shots, the most by a pair of players in Florida history. Horford’s career average of 1.67 blocks a game and Noah’s average of 1.61 rank second and third, respectively, in school history behind Dwayne Schintzius’ average of 2.47 from 1987 through 1990.
When in doubt either pass or take the dog, so I must play UCLA in a close one!