Post players expected to play big role in NCAA's Final Four

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Final Four is big, really big, this year.

With Ohio State's Greg Oden, Georgetown's Roy Hibbert and Florida's 6-foot-11 Joakim Noah and 6-10 Al Horford convening in Atlanta this weekend, college basketball's signature event has become a showcase for the country's best big men.

It could result in more post action at the Final Four than anyone has seen since Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon shared the stage in 1984.

"I think it's going to get the game back to where it used to be in having that low-post threat," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said Wednesday. "The size of the guys [in this Final Four] is truly amazing."

Florida (33-5) has made the most of its size advantage the last two seasons. Noah and Horford helped the defending national champions win 16 consecutive postseason games and advance to Saturday's semifinal game against UCLA -- a rematch of last year's title game.

The Bruins (30-5) are considered undersized in this year's Final Four.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is the team's top post player, but at 6-8 and 230 pounds, he's petite compared to Oden, Hibbert, Noah and Horford.

"We are by far the smallest team in this Final Four," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "But I think it's great to see the big man in college basketball."

He'll see two Saturday night.

"Our whole team had a problem with Florida in the title game last year," Howland said. "They thoroughly dominated us. I don't think there's any secret about that."

Ohio State's top threat also happens to be a center. Oden, a 7-foot freshman sensation, propelled the Buckeyes (34-3) into Saturday's semifinal match against Georgetown (30-6).

Hibbert could prove to be a challenge for Oden. The 7-2 junior is averaging 13 points and 11.5 rebounds in the tourney.

"I think we'll see Saturday how they match up," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "I think they're both very good players and something that people are talking about because it's not too often you have two low-post centers going against each other, particularly this late in the tournament."

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