Florida Takes on UCLA for Men's Basketball Title

The NCAA men's basketball championship will be decided Monday night in Indianapolis. Steve Inskeep talks to John Feinstein about the two finalists, UCLA and Florida. The Bruins are seeking a 12th national title. Florida is in the final for the second time since 2000.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

College basketball's Final Four concludes tonight in Indianapolis. The final two are UCLA, which has won more titles than any college basketball team, and Florida, which has never won one.

They will meet to decide the 2006 men's National title.

Commentator John Feinstein is in Indianapolis and joins us now.

John, how's the weather been?

JOHN FEINSTEIN reporting:

Well, Steve, it was okay until last night when some tornados blew through Indianapolis and we all had to be evacuated from our hotel rooms into a ballroom for awhile, but other than that, it's been pretty good.

INSKEEP: And some tornados on the court, as well. Fortunately, last night there were no games. But on Saturday, of course, there were two games and now you have two teams with very different histories making the final.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Yeah, no question. And think about this for a second, Steve: Florida played in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 1987. By then, John Wooden and UCLA had won the title ten times. Florida's been a football school, but more recently, Billy Donovan has built a pretty solid program. They were actually in the championship, in Indy, six years ago. So in that sense, since Donovan has coached in the championship game and UCLA's Ben Howland has not, they might have a slight edge in experience tonight.

INSKEEP: Surprised, at all, that these are the two teams left standing?

FEINSTEIN: Not shocked, in the sense that-as we talked all season, there are no dominant teams in college basketball anymore. UCLA was a number two seed coming in, Florida was a number three seed. UCLA survived against Gonzaga in the round of 16 with a remarkable comeback, from nine points down in the last three minutes. Florida, though, has pretty much been on cruise control. They haven't been seriously threatened, except a little bit, in that same round against Georgetown.

INSKEEP: So, I caught some of Saturday's game, where Florida defeated George Mason-the underdog that so many people were rooting for. There was a moment, near the end, where it looked like George Mason might have a chance.

FEINSTEIN: Yes, you're absolutely right; Folarin Campbell made a three point shot with 4:48 left to go, and the 19 point lead had gone to nine-and you could feel the buzz in the building that maybe Mason had one more miracle in it. But, there was a blocked charge call at mid court-could've gone either way-the official called it for Florida, they scored and cruised in the rest of the way. So you're right, they did have a shot.

INSKEEP: But Florida, in the end, just seemed like the stronger team.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Florida was the better team. As I said, it would've taken a miracle. But you know, the legacy of George Mason, in this tournament, will go on for years and years. This was the most dramatic run any team has had since Texas Western won the tournament in 1966, out of nowhere. When people talk about the little guy getting into this tournament and beating the big guy, for years and years to come, George Mason's run this year will be the benchmark.

INSKEEP: In the end, though, it'll be two big schools in the final tonight. Who do you see winning?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm going to go a little bit with sentiment and a little bit with guards.

John Wooden is now 95-years-old, he's back in Los Angeles watching this game. I'm sure everybody at UCLA would love to see him win one more championship to give the school twelve. And also, I think UCLA's going guards are just a little bit better than Florida's guards. I think the game goes right to the finish and I'll give the edge to UCLA-which probably means Florida will win.

INSKEEP: And have you scoped out the Florida evacuation routes for the arena tonight?

FEINSTEIN: I'm very much aware tornados after what happened last night, believe me, Steve.

INSKEEP: John, thanks very much.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Thank you Steve.

INSKEEP: The comments of John Feinstein whose latest book is, Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four.

And the final two playing tonight are UCLA and Florida.

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