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The College Basketball Notebook


March 13, 2010 3:00 PM

Saturday's Three Finals

If you’re looking for NCAA Tournament drama in tonight’s three tournament championship games, you won’t find it. All six teams are realistically in the field. No one’s trying to play their way in. No bubble teams need to sweat. If you’re into the whole #1 seed thing, Kansas already has one locked up. Only Kansas State or West Virginia would have even longshot hopes of playing their way into one. So if you’re a fan who believes the whole of a college basketball game is measured solely by its impact on the NCAA field, take tonight and go watch a movie or go out for a nice dinner. But if you’re looking for some good basketball amongst teams trying for the honor of winning a weekend event amongst their own, all three games are good ones. Here’s what we have, starting at 6 PM EST.

PAC-10 (6 EST, CBS):
Cal survived an upset bid by UCLA to reach the final. Actually it appears more that Cal just survived a great game by Bruin guard Michael Roll, who poured in 27 points and was the only player Ben Howland had who was a threat. The Golden Bears used their multifaceted attack, getting big games from Theo Robertson up front and Jerome Randle on the backcourt, along with a solid supporting effort from point guard Patrick Christopher to advance. They take on Washington. I suppose one could argue the Huskies are on the bubble, but after a nice finish to the regular season and two more wins here in Los Angeles, I find it hard to imagine they won’t be in the field. While they finished third, behind Arizona State, this is the conference’s two best teams. The Huskies have a strong two-man attack of their own with Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas, who had 19 and 17 respectively in a win over Stanford yesterday. The difference is that Cal has more scoring options than Washington does. The entire Pac-10 race has really boiled down to Cal’s focus. When they’ve been ready to go, they win. The fact they are in the final game suggests they’re ready to go and they should hold serve with a win tonight.

BIG 12 (6 EST, ESPN)
The top four reached the semi-finals and the top two reached the final, as Kansas plays Kansas State, the biggest game these two rivals have played since they met in a 1988 regional final. Since the formation of Big 12 basketball and its tournament in 1997, they have starkly different track records. Kansas has reached the final seven times and won six. Kansas State has never played in this game before. If you go back to the days of the Big Eight, it’s been 1980 since K-State won this thing. I like their chances to do it this year. The Wildcats have played great basketball the last two nights in dispatching quality teams like Oklahoma State and Baylor. In yesterday’s win over Baylor, the backcourt of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente sizzled, combining for 50 points. Dominique Sutton got after it inside, with 14 rebounds. Kansas looks a little sluggish. They’ve survived Texas Tech and Texas A&M, but haven’t looked good doing it. I won’t make the mistake I did in December and call them overrated. But these little spells tend to last a weekend and I like Kansas State to get a big win tonight.

BIG EAST (9 EST, ESPN)
West Virginia and Georgetown go at in the Garden. Watched both of these teams win last night. I was really impressed with De’Sean Butler. His 24 points and 7 rebounds are enough in of themselves, but on key possessions down the stretch, he gave up the ball with a couple nice passes to set up his teammates and grabbed a very big rebound. After a season of inconsistency, he’s put it all together on the New York stage and will likely be tournament MVP if they win tonight. On other side is Georgetown and Greg Monroe, who’s also having a great weekend in the Big Apple. The Hoyas destroyed Marquette on the boards yesterday. West Virginia did the same to Notre Dame. This will be a real test of muscle on both sides, as the Hoyas look to cut down the nets for the eighth time. Their seven championships already lead the league list. WVA has never won it, and they won’t break new ground tonight. Georgetown’s backcourt is immeasurably better than that Bob Huggins can counter with, and this game is a Hoya showcase. I’m looking for a 10-point G’town win.

See you tomorrow for more hoops talk. No baseball reports tomorrow, but we’ll have recaps of these three games, previews of finals in the Big Ten, ACC and SEC and later at night a fast reaction to the NCAA bracket.

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