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Who Will Prevail at the Final Four?

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Who Will Prevail at the Final Four?


Who Will Prevail at the Final Four?

Who Will Prevail at the Final Four?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Four talented teams will gather in Atlanta this weekend as the NCAA men's basketball tournament builds to a climax. Florida is trying for back-to-back titles, but must get past UCLA and then either Ohio State or Georgetown.


Okay, we're set for the men's basketball final four. Next Saturday in Atlanta, Georgetown will take on Ohio State. UCLA will play the defending champion Florida in a rematch of last year's national championship game. Commentator John Feinstein joins us now, as he so often does at the time of year. John, good morning.

Mr. JOHN FEINSTEIN: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: North Carolina will not be in the Final Four.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: No, and it certainly looked like they were going there until the last few minutes of regulation, and then Georgetown staged a remarkable rally, outscoring them 16-6 in the last few minutes of regulation and then winning the game in overtime. It seems like whenever those two schools get together in the NCAA tournament they stage a memorable game.

You remember 25 years ago they played in a championship game, and that was when Michael Jordan first emerged as a star, hitting the winning shot before the infamous Fred Brown pass to the wrong team. So whenever Carolina and Georgetown get together it's a great game. And I think a lot of people, though, are surprised that this Georgetown team has come from the depths three years ago, when they weren't even in their conference tournament, to now being in the final four.

INSKEEP: Well, you mentioned that other great game was 25 years ago. What has happened in the intervening years at Georgetown?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, back then they had a coach named John Thompson and a player named Patrick Ewing. Patrick Ewing graduated in '85, John Thompson retired in '99. The program spiraled, but now they have John Thompson and Patrick Ewing back, only it's the sons. John Thompson III is the coach and Patrick Ewing, Jr. is on the team as a key sub, and they're back in the final four. So maybe the key is Thompson and Ewing. But clearly the key is John Thompson III taking over as the coach three years ago and rebuilding the program.

INSKEEP: So Georgetown a bit of a surprise in the final four. Ohio State not a surprise, although they didn't have an easy time getting there.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: No, they certainly didn't. Houdini had nothing on Ohio State in their win over Xavier, and then coming from 20 points behind against Tennessee in the round of 16 to win. And then they own easily against Memphis. The interesting thing is with all the talk about their star center Greg Oden and their other great freshman, Mike Conley Jr., a guy named Ron Lewis, who's basically unheralded, has been the key in their comebacks, winning these games, getting to the final four.

First time since '99 they've been there. But it's been since 1960 since they won a national championship, when one of their players was Bob Knight. That's how long ago it's been.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Well, Florida hasn't won a national championship since 2006.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Yeah, exactly. And they're trying to become only the second team since John Wooden retired in 1975 to win back to back. Duke did it in '91 and '92. And Billy Donovan, their coach, said something interesting last month. That he feels he has a unique opportunity because in this day and age, when teams win national championships, all their players turn pro. North Carolina lost their top seven scorers after they won in 2005.

Well, all the starters for Florida came back and they're back in the final four. And they'll play UCLA, as you mentioned, in a rematch of last year's championship game on Saturday. And that should be a great game.

INSKEEP: How often do you have back-to-back years where you've got rematches like this in the final four?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Very rarely happens. But here's an interesting note for you on it. The last time this happened, Steve, was 1991 when Duke played Nevada-Las Vegas. Vegas won the 1990 championship game against Duke by a record 30 points. The next year, Duke came back and beat them. Last year, Florida beat UCLA very easily and this year they're playing again. So maybe Florida should beware.

INSKEEP: I imagine UCLA has been studying the tapes of that game ever since.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: To see what they did wrong. And that's what Duke did against Vegas. Mike Krzyzewski made his team look at the tape even though it was painful, and he said that was one of the reasons they won that game 16 years ago.

INSKEEP: John, good talking with you.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: The comments of John Feinstein, author of "Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four."

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