UCLA and North Carolina become the first two to punch their ticket to San Antonio thanks to regional final victories over Xavier and Louisville, respectively. One thing that may help out the Bruins in their quest for a twelfth national title is the fact that Florida won't be in town next weekend. The Gators are the only team to beat UCLA in NCAA Tournament play the last two-plus seasons. And with Kevin Love being a double-double machine (23 on the season), things could very well remain that way.
As for the Tar Heels, Saturday's win was an exorcism of sorts, with the motivation for this entire season being their loss to Georgetown in last season's East Regional Final. But thanks to Tyler Hansbrough and nineteen Louisville turnovers (eleven in the first half to help Carolina take a double-digit lead into the locker room), Coach Williams heads to San Antonio in search of his second national title. Two more bids will be decided tomorrow with Memphis/Texas in the South and Kansas/Davidson rounding out the field in the Midwest. Here are a few honors for Saturday's action.
Team of the Day: #1 UCLA
Result: Defeated #3 Xavier 76-57 in the West Regional Final.
The game hovered around a one-possession affair until the Bruins went on a run to close out the half with a nine-point lead. But any hopes of a Musketeer comeback were vanquished with a 14-0 second half run that put the game on ice. From there, it was all about taking care of the basketball and contesting shots on the other end. UCLA limited Xavier to 36.2% shooting from the field for the game, and guards Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 14-23 from the field after Thursday's subpar performance against WKU.
While Kevin Love was named region MOP, and rightfully so as the Musketeers had no answer for him inside, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute went for thirteen points and thirteen rebounds after a quiet night on Thursday. So now comes a third straight trip to the Final Four, and to say the least Ben Howland's experienced crew has been through plenty of battles in March the past three years. But can they get that elusive national title? I don't see why not.
Player of the Day: Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina)
Numbers: 28 points, 13 rebounds in UNC's 83-73 win over Louisville.
"Psycho T" got it done in a big way down in Charlotte, racking up yet another double-double in the victory. Be it on the block or outside with a couple of jumpers, Hansbrough was the guy that Louisville had no answer for all night long. His scoring tonight moves him into second place in the illustrious history of Carolina Basketball, with only Phil Ford left ahead of Hansbrough in the record books.
South Regional Final (2:20 PM EST): #2 Texas vs. #1 Memphis (Houston)
Midwest Regional Final (5:05 PM EST): #10 Davidson vs. #1 Kansas (Detroit)
I know that I was among the many who thought that Clark Kellogg was an absolute fool for picking all four top seeds to get to the Final Four. But he may have been on to something. I think that by the end of the day he will be proven correct in his prediction, with Memphis and Kansas moving on to San Antonio.