- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2006

LSU might end up the ultimate bracket buster.

The Tigers downed perennial No. 1 seed Duke in Thursday’s regional semifinal, shattering office pool entries around the country from people who figured two excellent players could carry the Blue Devils to the national title.

Not as many sheets were tossed aside in disgust yesterday when LSU upended Texas to reach the Final Four, but it was arguably a more impressive performance.

Both the Tigers and Longhorns are strong inside, and LSU has made little secret of its desire to go to Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Tyrus Thomas in the paint.

Texas looked to match up well with LaMarcus Aldridge and P.J. Tucker, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Davis (26 points, nine rebounds) and Thomas (21 points, 13 rebounds) had their way, and Aldridge did his best Casper imitation (four points, 2-for-14 shooting) at the offensive end.

The lesson for future years: Making bracket decisions based on strength vs. weakness is a lot easier than trying to figure out which team will advance if both share the same strong suits.

A story is Bruin

UCLA advanced to its second Final Four in the last 26 years with its victory over Memphis.

That is not a misprint.

No, not the reaching the Final Four this year part. That was far from a reach since the Bruins were the No. 2 seed, possess plenty of athleticism and both defend and protect the ball like they’re in an Under Armour commercial.

But this is only the second time since Larry Brown took UCLA to the semifinals in 1980 that a Final Four banner will hang from Westwood. For older fans, that’s an almost incomprehensible drought.

The other trip was in 1995, when Tyus Edney saved the day in the second round with a full-court drive that lives on several times every year on ESPN Classic. It’s uncertain whether coach Jim Harrick quizzed Edney on how much that two-point layup was worth.

Oh, shoot

Anyone looking for a shooting clinic should have steered clear of the UCLA-Memphis game.

UCLA was an atrocious 20-for-39 at the foul line. Take out Arron Afflalo’s 9-for-10, and the Bruins shot an incomprehensible 11-for-29.

Memphis did little from the 3-point line, going 2-for-16 from long range. It helped the Tigers put up the lowest output in a regional final (45 points) since North Carolina fell to Villanova 56-44 in 1985.

Blasts from the past

LSU is back in the Final Four for the first time in 20 years, and it’s amazing to think of some of the players who have passed through Baton Rouge since then.

Chris Jackson. Shaquille O’Neal. Stromile Swift. All left Red Stick without a trip to the Final Four.

The Tigers could soon have some company in the “it’s been too long since we last visited” department. Villanova has not played on the final weekend since its improbable national title run in 1985. Memphis, which lost to UCLA in yesterday’s other game, also hasn’t reached the Final Four since 1985.

Friday rerun

Anyone who stayed up to see the end of Washington-Connecticut game was treated to an unusual finish. Plenty remained at Verizon Center to watch the game finish at about 1 a.m., and many serenaded UConn’s players with chants of “overrated” as the top seeds eked out a victory.

Connecticut, though, didn’t approve of the criticism. Several players clapped in unison with the chant, and center Hilton Armstrong grinned at frustrated Washington fans while a teammate was closing out the game at the foul line. Armstrong also blew some kisses to the jeering crowd.

While the West Coast Huskies couldn’t have been happy with the shot swatter’s antics, pool participants across the country probably exhaled that the East Coast Huskies are still around and likely headed to Indianapolis next week.

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