The U.S. men's national college basketball Final Four is set to tip off Saturday at the Georgia Dome stadium in the southeast city of Atlanta. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is there and has a preview.
Top-ranked Ohio State will face Georgetown University, located in Washington, D.C., in the first semifinal game. These teams also met in last year's tournament.
Georgetown scored an upset victory in that second round contest and is hoping to repeat that success, but coach John Thompson the third says there is no comparison because of the new freshman starters.
"It's two totally different teams, their team as well as our team. So you look at that game because you know you want to look at how they approach things, how we approach things, and you throw it (last year's match-up) out. You just start to look and prepare with the teams they've had (played) this year. They are significantly different, as are we," he said.
Ohio State brings a 21-game winning streak and the Associated Press national number-one ranking into the game against Georgetown.
With defending champion Florida and last year's runner-up UCLA playing in the other semifinal, Ohio State Coach Thad Matta said the fans should be in for a great night of basketball. "We're very excited for our players, for Ohio State to be part of the Final Four. I think we've got what I think is probably one of the greatest Final Fours as far as the players and the teams involved. And we have a tremendous match-up ahead of us with Georgetown," he said.
In the second semifinal, UCLA hopes to find a way to defeat a Florida team that has all five starting players back from last year's champions. And UCLA coach Ben Howland acknowledged his players face a difficult task.
"This is an incredible team. This is one of the great basketball teams in college basketball history. You have to give it (highest praise) to them. They would be the first team to win back-to-back championships since the Duke (University of North Carolina) teams in the early 90's (1991-92). So we know we're facing a very, very daunting challenge," he said.
But Florida coach Billy Donovan knows it won't be easy. "People want to talk about the repeating part of it. But you've got to get to Monday first. So to me, I don't even really think about the repeating as much as I really think about trying to play the best game we can to the very best of our ability against a terrific UCLA team. This game's just about playing UCLA to get the opportunity to play for it all," he said.
And the winners of Saturday night's games will meet for it all in the national championship here on Monday night.