Post play is the story of the day as the Final Four gets set to tipoff on Saturday. Not since 1984 do I recall a collection of inside players as dominant as what we'll get this weekend. Back in '84, Akeem Olajuowon (later "Hakeem" of Houston Rockets fame) came with the Houston Cougars. Patrick Ewing (later of the Knicks) came with Georgetown. And Sam Bowie (later the #2 pick in the draft and forever immortalized by Portland fans as the man they picked one spot ahead of Michael Jordan) came with Kentucky.
Georgetown is back in the Final Four for the first time since the Ewing era. This time they've got Patrick's son, and they've got an elite post player in Roy Hibbert. The post play matchups are so juicy that The Washington Post deemed it worthy of a front-page story during a week when Congress voted to mandate troop withdrawal in Iraq.
Greg Oden needs no introduction to Big Ten fans, as he gets set to square off with Hibbert in Saturday's first game (tip time, 6 EST). National championship fever is running rampant in Columbus for the second time in three months. Meredith Heagney of The Columbus Dispatch reports that local fans are digging deep into the wallet for a chance in hoops they know may not come again anytime soon.
UCLA-Florida will be the second game. The Gators bring Joakim Noah, a hero of last year's title run. The prospect of watching a repeat hoops title--and the third national crown in twelve months for the UF program overall brings a double bonus for some Florida students. The Gainesville Sun notes that some students have worked opportunities for getting credits into their short trip to Atlanta.
The Bruins are defined by the personality of their coach. Ben Howland teaches a style of basketball foreign to Hollywood, but no doubt smiled up on by Bo and Woody. His toughness extends to his preparation in all facets of the game. Helene Elliot of The Los Angeles Times writes that no detail is too small for the UCLA coach.
Away from the spotlight, the searches move forward at Michigan and Iowa. Michael Rosenberg at The Detroit Free Press reports that John Beilen of West Virginia has emerged as the leading candidate in Ann Arbor. If true, this is a good hire for the Wolverines. While nothing can truly compensate for missing out on Tubby Smith, Beilen has done an excellent job in Morgantown and would be well-prepared to make the next step. The only note of caution would be that Tommy Amaker had done an excellent job at Seton Hall, and that did not work out to UM expectations.
Iowa doesn't have a replacement on the radar yet, but they have weeded out a couple candidates. They were rebuffed by Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, and deny they have an interest in Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings.
Good luck to Thad Matta, Greg Oden, Mike Conley and all the Buckeyes this weekend! I'll be back here on Tuesday after we watch it all shake out.