NCAA Final Four Player Preview

Despite the fact that just four teams remain in the 2007 NCAA tournament, Final Four tickets for Dayton Ohio still remain very hot there are is a wealth of interesting players remaining. In fact, there are players to fit every size and description that you could possibly want. Let’s say you wanted a big guy to block shots, score easy baskets, grab some rebounds, and intimidate everyone. How about Ohio State C Greg Oden or Georgetown C Roy Hibbert? OK, girth isn’t your thing. You like speedy guys who can whip from one end of the court to the other and hit a long-range shot when they attempt them. You’d probably go for UCLA G Darren Collison or Florida G Taurean Green. On the third hand, if you’d prefer a multi-talented player, you can look at Georgetown F Jeff Green or Florida F Corey Brewer. We have players to fit all sizes, so you won’t go away unhappy – your satisfaction is completely guaranteed.

-- Guards --

G Arron Afflalo, UCLA Bruins

Kansas has one of the finest defenses in the country, so it figured they would give UCLA’s top scoring option, Afflalo, a long game. It looked like Afflalo was ready and he poured in 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including a number of clutch jumpers with Jayhawks hounding his every move. If the 6-5 scoring guard wasn’t seen as one of the best shooters in the nation before the Bruins’ Elite Eight game, he is now. The question is: will he be able to keep his hot streak going against the Gators, against whom he was only 3-of-10 in the championship game last year.

G Jamar Butler, Ohio State Buckeyes

Butler stepped up his game against Memphis to help negate the first-half loss of Greg Oden by having a stat line of 12 points, three rebounds, and four assists. He continually drove the lane and got to the free throw line from where he was a perfect 6-for-6. He played good on-the-ball defense and kept the quick Memphis guards out of rhythm. If Butler can improve upon his 2-of-6 shooting from the three-point line he will help make Ohio State a lock to win it all.

G Darren Collison, UCLA Bruins

Collison had a rough first half trying to handle the ball against the aggressive Jayhawk defenders. He ended up with seven turnovers, but he managed to hold the ship together long enough for the Bruins to advance to the Final Four. For the game, he provided 14 points and five steals, but just a rebound and an assist apiece. He’ll have to control the pace against Florida to an even greater degree than he did against Kansas and cut down on the turnovers. If UCLA has an advantage at any position, it might be in the backcourt; Collison will have to play his best game in a while.

G Mike Conley Jr., Ohio State Buckeyes

If you were lucky enough to draft Conley as your point guard, there is no way that you are disappointed with his numbers for the tournament. In his last three games, he has a combined 59 points, 21 rebounds and 13 assists: not bad for a freshman. Against Memphis he recorded 19 points, four rebounds and two assists, but was clutch late in the game with a 9-of-10 effort from the free throw line. Conley is playing with a lot of confidence at the right time for Ohio State.

G Taurean Green, Florida Gators

Green took advantage of a fast pace against Oregon and was the second-leading scorer on the team Sunday, scoring 21 points. Once again three-pointers were key to his game, accounting for four of the five field goals he made. Green also showed some aggressiveness, earning ten trips to the free throw line. He also chipped in two assists and three rebounds. Green has become a steady scorer in his last few games. While Green’s not explosive enough to be a #1 guard on a fantasy team, he’s shown enough tenacity to be a good #2.

G Lee Humphrey, Florida Gators

After a relatively quiet run in the tournament thus far, Humphrey exploded in the Regional Semifinal against Oregon, dropping 23 points including seven three-pointers. It was only his second game of the season where he scored over 20 points and came after two straight six-point games. Humphrey is a solid shooter and always a threat to go off if he gets on a hot streak, but he hasn’t showed the consistency necessary to keep him on a fantasy roster. Humphrey broke double-digit scoring in only three of previous 13 games and will be facing two very tough UCLA guards. He’s a valuable player for Florida because of the attention teams have to pay to him and his zone-breaking shooting, but it doesn’t translate into a fantasy recommendation. The fact that he didn’t get a single rebound or assist doesn’t help his case at all.

G Ron Lewis, Ohio State Buckeyes

Lewis is having the kind of finish to his collegiate career that every senior dreams of. Is there any player on any team stepping up more? For the second game in a row, Lewis led the team in scoring with 22 points. Ten of his points came from the free throw line, where he was perfect. Teams will find it hard to key on him as they have all that they can handle with guarding Conley and Oden so look for his recent offensive performances to continue.

G Jonathan Wallace, Georgetown Hoyas

We said that Wallace was going to have to step up against North Carolina if the Hoyas were going to win and he did just that. His clutch three-pointer to tie the game was just one of the many big shots he hit on Sunday. Wallace had 19 points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out seven assists. He will need another solid performance against Mike Conley and Ohio State. Conley is outstanding with the ball and is tough to defend. On the other side, Wallace is going to have to take care of the ball despite Conley’s long arms and ability to play the passing lanes. Expect a decent game from him, but not the same as Sunday’s performance.

-- Forwards --

F Corey Brewer, Florida Gators

Brewer improved a bit off of his 11 against Butler by chipping in 14 points against Oregon. He displayed a great inside-outside game and was very aggressive defensively, ending with five rebounds, two steals and two blocks, in addition to three assists. Brewer’s role will be vital against UCLA because his ability to drive to the basket as well as play effectively in the perimeter could help draw out UCLA’s forwards and create more room for Horford and Noah to operate down low. Brewer is an explosive player with a knack for getting to the foul line, always an important asset in games like this. He’ll get his points (mid-teens) and will contribute enough in several categories to make him a great fantasy play, especially to round out a lineup.

F Jeff Green, Georgetown Hoyas

Green has developed into one of the most consistent and one of the best all-around players in the country. He has big shots in back-to-back games, including the game-winner against Vanderbilt and several clutch shots down the stretch against North Carolina. Green finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, and also dished out three assists. That brings his averages to 15.8 ppg and 7.0 rpg for the Tournament. He will have an advantage against Ohio State next Saturday, when 6-7 Ivan Harris likely will guard him. Green could have a huge game if that is the case. He will have a height advantage and could take him into the post all day long.

F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA Bruins

Despite his relatively fancy name, Mbah a Moute does not have a fancy game. He provides interior defense against opponents who are generally bigger than he is and he is very effective. While he took some surprising shots against Kansas (two three attempts?), he played his usual defense-oriented game and ended up with eight points, six rebounds, four steals, and a block. A nice array of stats, especially when the number of available players is limited. He’ll have a tough time scoring against Florida, but if he can come up with rebounds and blocks, you should be happy.

F Josh Shipp, UCLA Bruins

Good, old Josh Shipp. He is rarely the reason that the Bruins win, but he provides hustle, grit and all of those other intangibles that count for nothing in the fantasy world. However, against Kansas he had a good stat to go with those unmentionables including nine points, six rebounds, a team-leading five assists and four steals. He only made two baskets in seven tries but both of his makes were from beyond the three-point line. He’ll need to be more accurate against the Gators to keep Corey Brewer from freelancing on defense.

F DaJuan Summers, Georgetown Hoyas

Summers is really coming into his own in the NCAA Tournament, and could be a big-time performer next season. He had another excellent game against North Carolina, scoring 20 points and grabbing six rebounds. That comes only two days after his 15-point, seven-rebound performance against Vanderbilt. He showed his range by hitting two early threes, but also got points driving to the basket. Summers could be in line for another good game against Ohio State. He is taller and stronger than Ron Lewis of the Buckeyes and should be able to take him to the basket. More importantly, he will need to be able to defend Lewis.

-- Centers --

F/C Alfred Abaya, UCLA Bruins

Abaya and his partner in crime (fouls) C Lorenzo Mata did a sensational job against Kansas of altering shots. The Jayhawks had no problem getting into the lane, which may indicate some perimeter leaks for the Bruin defense, but once in the painted area, they had a tough time converting. Some of the fault lies with the Kansas players and some of the credit must be given to Abaya and Mata, who both ended up with four fouls. The two-headed center will have to guard the low post against the Gators big in order for the Bruins to avenge last year’s loss.

C Roy Hibbert, Georgetown Hoyas

I’ve maintained all season long that Hibbert was soft and only played well against smaller defenders. While Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright aren’t as tall as Hibbert, Hibbert showed that he could have big games against anyone. Despite struggling with foul trouble in the first half and for much of the game, he finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds—his fifth straight double-double. He also dished out four assists and blocked six shots. His match up against Greg Oden of Ohio State next week is going to be outstanding. Neither player is used to facing an opponent that can match his size, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

F/C Al Horford, Florida Gators

Beware the team with balance and talent because even the sure things can disappoint you sometimes. After scoring in double-digits in each of his tournament games this season, Horford ended up with only six points against Oregon. It wasn’t a total loss, however, as he still added seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Horford had only three attempts from the floor against Oregon, a number you can probably expect to go up against the slower-paced Bruins. Horford is still a rock-solid choice to be tier one player on any fantasy squad. Expect a return to scoring form in the high mid-teens and the same consistent defensive numbers. Don’t be scared off this performance.

C Greg Oden, Ohio State Buckeyes

If Oden can stay out of foul trouble and off of the Buckeyes bench, he can dominate the game by either blocking or altering every shot that goes up in the lane. Against Memphis he played only 24 minutes, nine in the first half, and still recorded 17 points and nine rebounds. The time that he did spend in the game, he kept the two big guys for Memphis off the glass and shut out Memphis F Joey Dorsey, holding him to zero points and only three rebounds. If his offensive numbers improve at all, Oden will be the difference-maker for the Buckeyes as they go for the title.

F/C Joakim Noah, Florida Gators

The breakout high-energy game from Noah finally arrived Sunday when he hit the 14-point, 14-rebound double-double. He proved last year that his game improves as the tournament goes deeper; expect no less this season. Noah’s energy and tenacity will still generate points and boards. He’ll have more big bodies to contend with against a talented UCLA frontline, but his energy will earn him the points and boards that make him such a valuable fantasy player.