ATLANTA -- UCLA can't beat Florida. Georgetown isn't quite in that same hopeless position against Ohio State in the other half of the Final Four, but the Hoyas have one chance -- and only one -- to beat the Buckeyes.
How do I know these things? Because of a single matchup in each game. Here comes a breakdown, but put on your thinking cap. This is some hardcore basketball coming right at you.
Corey Brewer vs. Arron Afflalo
|Stop Arron Afflalo? Corey Brewer did it last year. (AP)|
Afflalo needn't feel all that badly. Few players can score on Brewer, a 6-foot-9 wing who has an NBA player's length, quickness and explosiveness, three traits Afflalo lacks. UCLA fans actually owe Brewer a bit of thanks, considering his dominant lockdown of Afflalo last season triggered the chain of events that brought Afflalo back to school for his junior season.
One year later the same thing could happen, with UCLA again owing Brewer an odd bit of gratitude.
See, UCLA can't beat Florida -- not if the Gators play with any intensity at all. Florida is way too big and way too deep for the Bruins, just as it was a year ago. It's the same Florida team that dismantled UCLA at Indianapolis, and it's basically the same UCLA team (albeit with Darren Collison replacing Jordan Farmar and Josh Shipp in for Cedric Bozeman) only smaller with 7-footer Ryan Hollins replaced at center by 6-9 Lorenzo Mata.
UCLA can't win this game, but it can be the dominant team next season ... if Afflalo returns. That's where Brewer comes in.
For some reason, Afflalo is sending out vibes that he will again enter the NBA Draft, which would be irreversible since he used his free draft entry a year ago. Someone close to Afflalo needs to ask him to name one NBA shooting guard who stands 6-4, isn't a great shooter, has average quickness and plays below the rim. Answer: There aren't any.
Maybe, if prototypical NBA shooting guard Corey Brewer hounds him into irrelevance again in the Final Four, Afflalo will get the message. He would return to a 2007-08 UCLA team with every starter back and incoming freshman Kevin Love -- a possible All-American -- plugging the hole in the middle.
UCLA could be awesome next year. Corey Brewer could help make it happen Saturday.
Jeff Green vs. ... who?
At the most important positions on the floor, Ohio State has a decisive edge over Georgetown. The Hoyas have solid players at point guard (Jonathan Wallace) and center (Roy Hibbert), but Ohio State freshmen Michael Conley Jr. and Greg Oden are the best the country has to offer at those positions.
|What will the Buckeyes do to counter the Hoyas' Jeff Green? (Getty Images)|
For Ohio State, there's the Jeff Green conundrum.
The Buckeyes have nobody who can defend Green. Nobody who can come remotely close. Green is the Hoyas' 6-9 combo-forward who scores from the perimeter and on the post and everywhere in between. His season scoring average is modest at 14.4 points per game, but he's capable of putting up big numbers -- he had 22 in the Elite Eight against North Carolina, and Big East coaches voted him the Player of the Year -- and Georgetown will need him to do just that against Ohio State.
And Ohio State won't be able to stop him.
Ohio State's starting power forward, Ivan Harris, is a scorer, not a defender. Green will throttle him all over the floor, which means the Buckeyes will have to put a smaller defender on Green -- say, the 6-4 Lewis -- and hope Oden can help when Green takes Lewis close to the basket and posts him up.
Or the Buckeyes might have to tinker with their entire lineup and play with a second big man, 6-9 Othello Hunter, alongside Oden. Hunter has the size and bounce to defend in the post, but Green is a 38 percent shooter from 3-point range, an area Hunter won't be comfortable trying to defend. And what kind of havoc would Hunter's presence have on Ohio State's offense, which typically has four perimeter players orbiting around Oden?
Green's a problem for most teams, but he's a specific matchup nightmare for Ohio State. The question is will Green be so good that he overcomes Ohio State's edge at center, shooting guard and point guard?
Let's find out. At least one of the national semifinals will have some suspense.