For the first time since 1980, there are no No. 1 seeds in the NCAA 2006 Men’s Final Four. The Final Four, which begins tomorrow night in Indianapolis, will feature a team that already has 11 NCAA championship banners hanging from the rafters, two young teams from the Southeastern Conference and a Cinderella team from the Colonial Athletic Association.
The UCLA Bruins, led by sophomore guards Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, are making their first Final Four appearance since 1995. They will play the Louisiana State Tigers, led by sophomore center Glen “Big Baby” Davis and redshirt freshman forward Tyrus Thomas.
UCLA, the highest-seeded team left, defeated No. 1-seeded Memphis in the Oakland regional final Saturday, while LSU needed overtime to defeat No. 2-seeded Texas.
The Bruins have won 11 games in a row and, in the process, have only allowed one opponent to score more than 60 points. That opponent was Gonzaga, who UCLA faced in the regional semifinals. They scored the last 11 points of the game to win.
LSU knocked out No. 1-seeded and No. 1-ranked Duke in the regional semifinals. Thomas scored 9 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 5 shots against Duke as they held them to a season-low 27 percent shooting from the field.
In the other Final Four matchup, the Florida Gators will play against the Cinderella team, George Mason.
George Mason, an 11-seed, is only the second 11-seed to reach the Final Four. They defeated teams who have won four of the past seven national champions in Michigan State, North Carolina, and Connecticut. Before this year’s tournament, George Mason had not even won a NCAA tournament game.
Florida lost three key players to the NBA at the end of last season, but the emergence of sophomore forward Joakim Noah has help lead the Gators to the Final Four. Noah, the most valuable player of the Minneapolis Region, is averaging 18 points and 12.5 rebounds in the NCAA tournament.
While there are no No. 1 seeds remaining in the men’s bracket, the NCAA 2006 Women’s Final Four, which is going to be played Sunday in Boston, features three of them.
Two No. 1 seeds, the LSU Lady Tigers and Duke Blue Devils, will play against each other while the other No. 1 seed, North Carolina, will play ACC rival Maryland.
North Carolina defeated perennial power Tennessee to advance to its first Final Four since 1994, when it won a national championship on a buzzer beater by Charlotte Smith.
UNC, led by ACC player of the year Ivory Latta, won 33 games this season, but Maryland defeated UNC in overtime by three points in February.
Duke advances to the Final Four by defeated Connecticut in a game played in Bridgeport. Connecticut had won 29 straight tournament games played in the state of Connecticut.
The Lady Tigers are led by reigning national player of the year Seimone Augustus, and LSU is in its third straight Final Four.
Ryan Thomas is a senior religion major from Shelbyville, Ky.