Sunday, April 02, 2006

NCAA Final Four: Florida

This weekend shows once and for all time why I am a football analyst. My final four picks were blown to heck as George Mason and LSU were soundly beaten Friday night. I'll still go with the underdog and pick Florida over UCLA for the championship.

Tournament picks have been tough on everybody, supporting the notion that the NCAA did a good job selecting at-large teams for the playoffs. Did I say good? Great is the word for it. This tournament is sharply competitive. All of the final four teams are underdogs in a fashion. All are surprises. All play good ball.

George Mason taking it all would have been the feel good story of the year. Even in Washington, Georgetown and George Washington got more press during the regular season than GMU. Florida and UCLA offer their own intriguing story lines. The title game pits UCLA's formidable defense against Florida's offensive firepower.

How is it that so many upstarts overran power teams? USAToday argues that the talent level between the majors and the mid-majors have been narrowing for years. The loss to the pros of great college players and the reduction of basketball scholarships from 15 to 13 have had their effect on the major conferences. The big programs can't hoard players like they once did and they lose their blue chip players before they jell as a team. Thus, they can be had by good teams that sweep up the untapped talent. How long the effect lasts is an open question, but the mid-majors will be seen in a new light by scholarship prospects. If they can cement their position with more TV exposure, watch out!

The majors are well led and won't just sit still for this. They will adapt. They will change recruiting tactics. Billy Donovan at Florida, for example, changed his recruiting focus to the high schoolers ranked 25th to 100th in their position in the hope that they will stay with the program for four years.

For the complete article, look here.

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