NCAA Final Four 2007 is looking to be a classic.

March 19, 1955, at Kansas City, Mo.

Bill Russell doesn’t have anywhere near the hype of Greg Oden.

Russell didn’t deserve it. He was an awkward 6-7 center and didn’t score more than 10 points in a high school game. Did you know?

Russell developed into an intimidating force and grew three inches as the Dons became a No. 1 team. Awaiting them in the NCAA title game was defending champion LaSalle, much like Florida may potentially be defending it’s title against the Bill Russell-esque Greg Oden.

Russell harassed LaSalle’s shooters in the paint, blocking 4 shots, grabbed 25 rebounds and scored 23 points in the Dons’ 77-63 victory.

March 29, 1982, at New Orleans

Before icon status, before Air Jordans, before the triangle offense, he was a freshman trying to win an NCAA title for his esteemed coach.

He was just Michael Jordan then.

His 16-foot jump shot (above), with 17 seconds left, sent North Carolina ahead of Georgetown 63-62 in the championship game.

April 2, 1983, at Albuquerque, N.M.

This was not a Final Four semifinal. It was Cirque du Soleil.

Acrobatics were promised for the matchup between No. 1-ranked Houston, the Phi Slamma Jamma fraternity of dunkers, and No. 2 Louisville, which had won the NCAA title three years earlier with a team characterized as Doctors of Dunk.

Houston’s Akeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Larry Micheaux did not disappoint the audience.

The Cougars were limited to two dunks in the first half, but they overcame a halftime deficit by combining actual points with style points. They scored 22 of their 58 second-half points on dunks and defeated Louisville 94-81.

A 21-1 run became a Houston highlight reel. Olajuwon, who had 22 rebounds as well as 21 points, sealed the victory with four dunks down the stretch.

Underdog North Carolina State upset Houston in the championship game 54-52.

-This year’s Final Four promises to be one of the classic Final Four’s of all time, because of the nature of the basketball to be played. Since the three point rule was put in place in the NCAA, tournament play has been mostly a shooting contest, with the team that shoots closest to %50 from behind the arc winning (see the 06′ Final Four). This breed of basketball makes for great oppurtunity for Cinderella stories, and games that are exciting to watch – but the quality of play is definately lacking, which in turn takes the “epic” feel out of the tournament.

However, this year is the first since Bryant Reeves was on the court that we’ll get to watch a legitimate showdown of 7 foot, low block, shot blocking centers. Look to see legitimate coaching strategy changes happen at halftime and then again in the last 10:00 of play in each of the three games this weekend. With the addition of “old school” strategy to the game, the matchups will play out better, and we might get to witness one of the best Final Four’s in history when it’s all said and done.

-Adam

(credit to IndyStar newspaper)

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