__By Miles Hilder__
Memphis will emerge as the NCAA champion thanks to freshman guard Derrick Rose and the most astounding collection of athletes in the tournament. Rose has the ball-handling, defense and game management skills to carry the Tigers, as was highlighted in his dominating 21-point, nine assist performance over Texas in the Elite Eight. He also played tenacious defense and effectively controlled an up-tempo Memphis attack that ran all over the Longhorns. Expect Rose to do the same Saturday against UCLA, with Memphis spreading the court and allowing Chris Douglas-Roberts, Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey to run wild. Rose will serve as conductor of the madness with effective passing and timely shooting. Once UCLA is dispatched, the Tigers will be able to control Kansas the same way they handled the Bruins, or out-hustle UNC to capture the championship.
__E-mail Miles Hilder at [email protected]__
p. **UCLA Bruins**
__By Andrew Pike__
UCLA will not return home to Westwood without a title this year. Earning its third-straight Final Four appearance, the Bruins will ride experience and the stellar play of Kevin Love to the title. Over the course of the season and throughout the tournament, UCLA has been tested unlike any other Final Four team. The Bruins survived plenty of close games in Pac-10 play and shook off sub-par performances against Texas A&M and Western Kentucky to dominate Xavier. Darren Collison and Josh Shipp provide UCLA with great experience and leadership, while Love gives them a little bit of everything. The Bruins have proven all year long that they can lock down opponents defensively and score when they need it. Their defense always keeps them in games and will allow them to wear down Memphis before taking out Kansas Monday night.
__E-mail Andrew Pike at [email protected]__
p. **UNC Tar Heels**
__By Chris Weidman__
North Carolina did not ride a roller coaster of a NCAA season just to settle for second; the Tar Heels danced for a championship. After losing only twice during the regular season, North Carolina won their four tourney games by an average margin of 25.2 points and have not tasted defeat in their last 15 contests. Tyler Hansbrough and his supporting cast have been unstoppable in the last month, leaving opponents little hope of halting them now. Hansbrough’s inside game has flourished and his mid-range jumper has made his capabilities deadly. The junior averaged 29.2 points in Lawson’s absence earlier this season and showed his gutsier side against Louisville in the Elite Eight, exploding for 20 second-half points. No player can take a game over like this Tar Heels’ forward and there is a good chance he will take UNC all the way.
__E-mail Chris W. at [email protected]__
p. **Kansas Jayhawks**
After three straight years of tough NCAA tournament defeats, Kansas is ready to break through with its first national title in 20 years. Boasting a deep and athletic squad, the Jayhawks are extremely versatile, capable of containing the high-octane offenses of UNC and Memphis, while also possessing the shooters needed to break down UCLA’s tight defense. Leading the nation in scoring margin at 21 ppg, a healthy Brandon Rush will couple with the steady senior leadership of point guard Russell Robinson to take down a Tar Heel squad that has not been seriously challenged since the ACC tournament. In the championship game, expect the Jayhawks to prevail in a defensive battle over UCLA, as Mario Chalmers will lead a balanced Kansas attack to bring the title back to Lawrence and restore one of college basketball’s marquee programs to the forefront of the national game.
__E-mail Matt Poms at [email protected]__